The most affected sectors to date include travel and tourism (cruise ships, hotels, and airlines), education, and oil, as demand continues to decrease. Does that mean that other sectors like the dental industry have not yet been impacted? The dental industry, like any other industry, is not an exception. That aside, though, the big question should be, when push comes to solve, what can dental practice owners do to prevent further financial damage to their practices during this period?
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, even the world’s largest organizations have begun painting a bleak image of empty stores, disrupted manufacturing, and broken supply chains. The announcements by businesses such as Apple, Microsoft, United Airlines, and Mastercard offer a reading on ways the virus is impacting consumer behavior. These corporate bulletins — and what C.E.Os does in response — may determine the level of economic damage the virus inflicts, and whether a financial crisis looms.
Undoubtedly, the primary emphasis is and should be on mitigating the virus itself. However, the economic impacts are also huge, and many businesses are trying to react to and learn a few lessons from fast unfolding events. Unexpected turns and twists will be unearthed with each news cycle, though we will only get a clear picture in retrospect.
How coronavirus may affect your dental businesses
Coronavirus might disrupt your dental business in a number of ways; however, be prepared for the following almost inevitable scenarios.
- Dental workforce unavailability — Currently, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are asking their staff in some selected cities to work remotely. And this is expected to continue as the crisis exacerbates. However, all the mentioned above companies fall in the technology sector. Can this be replicated in the dental industry, where most of the services are offered physically? Employee absence in dentistry would negatively impact the running of businesses.
- Workplace restrictions and limitations — You have to guarantee a safe working environment for your employees. If you learn that an employee in your practice is ill, you must take precautions to curtail active virus exposure. This might include restricting access to specific areas and disinfecting all rest and work areas where the employee taken ill may have visited. Some of these measures might come at a cost.
- Changing service demand and patient behavior — If the public perspective of the virus and reduced social interaction soar, it may affect demand for your dental services. Alternatively, where possible, patients may now opt for telehealth services, to reduce in-office visits. Do you have the equipment and technology needed to offer telehealth services?
- Changing third-party behavior — If an important vendor has been affected, they may be incapable of meeting their contractual commitments to you. What does this mean for your practice?
Anticipating the disruptions mentioned above, what can you do to make sure that there will be minimal financial troubles on your side? Let’s explore some guidelines for pandemic preparedness.
1. Frequently reframe your understanding of what is happening
A big-picture synthesis of the coronavirus situation and a blueprint to deal with it, when captured on paper, may itself bring some form of inertia. A famous Chinese saying reminds us that brilliant generals issue commands in the morning and are not afraid to change these commands as early as in the evening.
But at times, established dental practices are hardly ever flexible. Some dental practice owners may resist disseminating plans until they are 100% sure of what they are doing. They are hesitant to change policies for fear of appearing misinformed or indecisive, or of bringing confusion in the organization. A well laid-out document, stamped “best-current view” is handy when learning and adapting in a fast-changing situation, like the one we are in currently.
2. Avoid financing major treatment yourself
If a patient is not in a position to pay for treatment today, how are you sure that they can pay you tomorrow? Of course, this sounds pretty self-serving; however, it is the truth. The uncertainty around this crisis is on another level.
A dental practice can only run profitably when it gets paid on time; thus, it is advisable to have a good cash-flow for your operations, especially a time like now. Get your patients to pay on time and, if possible, provide them with incentives or inducements to do so. For instance, offer a one time 5% discount for payment in full on every long-term debt.
3. Don’t be too self-centered to the extent that you lose your clients
It’s good to put your business’ interest first, but at times, there can be too much of that. Too much hollowing out of your offerings will make the patients feel alienated.
Whatever is going on in the background, ensure your loyal clients can experience the same continuity from you. They will stay confident in your professionalism if you continue offering first-class services that made them loyal clients in the first place. Remember, most businesses get more than 50% of their revenue from returning and repeat clients.
4. Trim wasteful costs
During a financial crisis, everybody has to get lean to survive. Organizations of all kinds cut on needless expenses by analyzing outflows and thinking ingeniously about alternatives.
You should have two budgets in place during this trying moment. A need-budget that caters to those things you must have to deliver top-notch dentistry services and another wish budget for those things that you would like but really don’t need. Also consider hiring temp employees and using dedicated online dental staffing platforms like Cloud Dentistry to recruit employees during this period, to ease the burden on your payroll. In brief, be tight with your money and stick to the need-budget.
5. It’s time to remain positive as ever about your practice
As the economy suffers, discretionary dollars spent on dental services by people may drop off. You can spend this time agonizing and putting pressure on your patients and employees, or you can use this critical moment to improve everything your offerings. The choice is yours. They say; a good economy camouflages poor management and vice versa. Take the intraoral camera (IOC) and focus it on yourself and dental practice.
Be at the forefront when it comes to inspiring a positive change. Do not get occupied with negative things that you have no control of. Do the best you can and take time to improve your services during this period.
6. Keep marketing your practice
Marketing is among the top activities organizations stop undertaking during changing economic times. Those that cut their marketing activities, eventually end up regretting. It doesn’t mean that, because there is a crisis, patients wouldn’t seek dental services anymore.
People will still move about looking for dental clinics that are still operating. So, if you are not getting the word out there that you are still in operation, and your competitor does that, then you are likely to lose the ground quickly. And don’t worry; if you can’t afford expensive marketing campaigns, there are still a range of low-cost digital alternatives to opt for, such as social media, email, and blogging.
7. Create a backup plan
No one could have expected this pandemic to have occurred and to cause confusion like it is now. However, it happened, and now organizations without backup strategies feel the impact.
It is a common practice to have a plan B tactic, but you will still find lots of businesses that don’t have it, which is a big mistake. A backup strategy shouldn’t be considered as a “just in case” strategy. It should be seen as a competitive business plan.
By frequently creating multiple backup strategies, it will help you ensure that your current strategy is truly the right pick in the first place. For instance, do you have a backup plan where you can get your dental clinic supplies? Researching different vendors and suppliers will force you always to recognize what your options are.
You are staying enlightened on how much various dental items costs or different viable approaches to run your operations. Dental businesses that didn’t do this are currently scrambling to find alternative suppliers that aren’t based in coronavirus-hit regions. Those who did have a plan B have a competitive advantage.
8. Use experts and forecast carefully
Experts in virology, logistics, public health, epidemiology, and other disciplines are crucial in interpreting complex information. But don’t forget that experts’ views also differ on decisive issues like optimal containment procedures and economic impact; thus, it is advisable to consult multiple sources.
Every pandemic is unique and unpredictable, and you should try to understand the features of the current one. In short, you must employ an iterative and experimental approach to understand what is going on and what works best — albeit one steered by expert opinion.
Prepare now for the next financial crisis
Coronavirus is not a one-off challenge. Business owners should expect additional phases to the present pandemic, and other pandemics in the future. However, there is one variable that is most foretelling and predictive of eventual success — planning, preparation, and preemption. Planning for the next financial crisis (or for the subsequent phase of the present crisis) now will be more effective than an impromptu, reactive response when the virus strongly hits us.
In other words, preparation takes the paralyzing fear and panic out of the equation and substitutes it with logical and systematic planning and action.