How dentists can financially survive the COVID-19 pandemic

By Sally McKenzie, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

March 31, 2020 -- To help stop the spread of COVID-19, dental practices across the country are either completely shutting down or only treating emergencies. While temporarily closing your practice doors will help keep you, your team members, and your patients physically healthy, it's likely leaving you worried about your practice's financial health.

Navigating through these uncertain times is tricky, but just remember that you're not going through this alone. There are people you can reach out to for guidance, including the team at McKenzie Management. I've put together a few tips to help you better understand your financial situation and what you need to do to survive this crisis.

Find ways to reduce overhead

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

You really need to do this immediately, as its critical to your fiscal well-being. Make a list of all your financial obligations. Start with your fixed costs, including rent and equipment payments. Then list optional expenses. Look for things you can take on yourself to reduce the amount of money leaving the practice.

Next, figure out your monthly expense total. This is a crucial step. Once you know that number, you can assess how much cash you have on hand and come up with a plan to cover those expenses. When you're done, you'll know how long you can stay afloat without any new revenue.

Keep your team members informed

As you're going through your expenses, it's difficult to avoid the fact that payroll is the biggest expense of all. I'm sure you're wondering how you're going to pay your employees. While it's a difficult decision, one option is to lay them off so they can collect unemployment until you're able to reopen.

Talk with team members about the situation and let them know you understand this is a difficult time for them too. Remember, they're stressed about keeping themselves and their families healthy, and they're worried they're not going to be able to pay the bills if they can't work. Go over their options and reassure them you're doing everything you can to help them during this crisis. Pay out any vacation time, personal days, or sick leave they have and remind them they'll receive these payments as outlined in the employee manual.

It's also helpful to let them know they may be eligible for state unemployment benefits but that they'll need to file to receive them. Provide the link to help them get started.

Check on all unpaid insurance claims

I suggest you run a report to see how many outstanding insurance claims you have, and then start contacting insurance companies that haven't paid yet. That is money you can use to cover bills, making this a critical action.

Let patients know how you're responding

You can do this through an email. With this communication, outline how the practice is handling the COVID-19 pandemic and stress that your first priority is keeping your patients and team members safe. If you're closing the office, explain why. Also let patients know when you plan to reopen and if you'll be providing teledentistry services in the meantime. Send updates as necessary and make it clear you hope to see them back in the office when this is all over.

Some practices are staying open to treat emergencies. If your office is among them, tell patients about the precautions you're taking to keep them safe. For example, I recommend scheduling so that only one patient is in the reception area at a time. Ask patients to stay in their car and call or text to let them know when to come inside for their appointment. This will keep from overwhelming what should be a skeleton crew that consists of an assistant and a front office employee. It will also make patients feel more comfortable.

Evaluate your systems

While you have some downtime, take a step back and really look at your systems and how they're performing. This is especially important if your production was leveling off before the coronavirus crisis. Identify weaknesses and develop a plan to correct them. If your systems are performing at a high level when you reopen, you'll be in a much better position for a strong recovery.

Establish a plan for patient retention

Don't let patients use this as an excuse to stop going to the dentist. Put together a plan now that will help get patients back in the chair when you're open for business.

Use this is an opportunity

Try not to dwell on the negatives. Instead, use this time to make improvements to your practice. Take on projects you haven't had time for, whether it's cleaning the carpets or adding a fresh coat of paint to the office. Commit to making positive changes, and patients will notice when they're back in the chair.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Remember, you're not alone. If you need more guidance, I'm available via virtual coaching and training and can work with you to develop a plan that will put you in the best position moving forward.

Now is the time to act. Review your expenses, communicate with employees and team members, and think about improvements you can make to your office and your practice systems. This is how you'll financially survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


Copyright © 2020 DrBicuspid.com
 
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