Every week when I sit down to write this newsletter, I cross my fingers and hope that perhaps when I write the next newsletter, we will have a date in place for returning to work and figure out our new “normal.” As always, I remain an optimist that we all will come out of this stronger. This week I have found a change in many people’s attitudes, many went from acceptance and resignation to anxious at all the uncertainties the industry is facing. I am consciously choosing to not to feed into every worst-case scenario that is being presented right now, I am choosing to celebrate our industry and come up with some solutions we can put into place no matter what new guidelines come into play.
Our industry has been far ahead of the curve for a very long time on this one and this is something we should be communicating with our patients as soon as possible.
I want to share a personal story. Many of you know I have been struggling with vocal chord issues for the last three months (thankfully, slowly getting better) at the beginning, my physician wanted me to see an ENT for a scope to ensure that there were no growths causing the problem. My appointment date was Monday March 16 (otherwise known as the day that COVID became very real), the specialist came into the room, very thoroughly sanitized his hands, gloved and sanitized again. He spoke with me and then left the room to get the scope which he carried back in his hand, not wrapped in anything and I proceeded to allow him to feed it through my nose and into my throat. Once he told me that there were no growths, it occurred to me that in a dental office we are required to handle instruments, much differently. I provided consent for an invasive procedure without questioning the sterility of the instruments.
We need to let our patients know that even before COVID, our standards were extremely high for their safety and ours, I am sure Post-COVID they will be even higher. Make a list of items to be distributed to your patients of how we have always been protecting them, patients have always taken it for granted that we are protecting them but their questions will be at a different level now, get ahead of it and let them know what we have known for years.
ACTION ITEM: It has likely been a few weeks since you last connected with your patients, send another email blast checking in with them, seeing how they are doing, you can mention some of your general IPAC items that you have always had in place and maybe add in a dental joke or cartoon.
Patient Service Aspects of Dentistry
Patients have become more demanding of excellent customer service over the last number of years. We are always looking to deliver VIP Five Star service to them. Post-COVID we are going to find that our patient’s expectations will have changed for many reasons.
Firstly, there will likely be a number of patients who have experienced financial hardship over the last number of months and once the world opens again, we may have dual income households become single income households. Our patient’s financial circumstances may have a bearing on their dental appointment frequency. The best thing we can do is show our patients empathy and come up with payment solutions to support their oral health needs.
Secondly, we may find that patients are price shopping more than ever before. We know that there will be dentists out there who will not be following RCDSO regulations and they will be discounting services just to get patients through their doors. This method of attracting patients may provide an initial influx of patients but in the long run you won’t have those patients sustain their time in your practice. A solution to this is to make it easy for your patients to know exactly the financial commitment for any service in your office. When a patient calls in for an appointment try not to answer with please come in for a consultation and then we will discuss fees with you. Have your team be prepared with fees when those calls roll in, if you don’t provide an answer, the next office they call will.
Action Item: Before you decide on changing your fees, do the math, figure in your expenses (which will increase Post-Covid) and ensure that you aren’t losing money on procedures. Instead, get creative with other ways to have added value for your patients (payment plans or assignment are options)
Always a favorite topic for me, we need to ensure that we are using verbiage that will educate patients, be professional and provide a positive atmosphere in your office.
We are always looking for ways to present ourselves and our procedures in a positive manner. We are all guilty of using minimizing language to make our patients feel more comfortable, as in “it is just a little cavity.” It is either is decay or it isn’t. Those of you who know me, know that I am a stickler for all kinds of minimizing verbiage.
There is some new verbiage that will come into play Post-Covid, the word comfortable and uncomfortable. This is another word that has negative undertones to it. Uncomfortable or comfortable are not going to refer to a patient’s oral health, it will refer to how the patients feel in your office. Replacing negative verbiage with neutral verbiage will help dissipate some patient’s anxiety. Try using the words familiar or unfamiliar instead and you will find your patients reactions may be very different. “Would like to become familiar with our disinfecting protocols?” “I didn’t realize you were unfamiliar with the way we are sterilizing our instruments.”
Action Item: Work with your team now or contact me to help review positive verbiage to discuss IPAC and patient procedures when you return to work.
Always remember that FEAR has two meanings, consciously choose the second option!