What your dental practice can do today about COVID-19

Your dream doctor. Cheerful dentist looking at camera with smile while sitting in dentist’s office

 

Dear friends, partners, and colleagues,

 

These are unprecedented and uncertain times. Most of you have decreased or stopped treating non-emergency patients in accordance with the CDA guidelines.

No one knows exactly what the future will bring. We certainly don’t. But we wanted to write to everyone to help us navigate the challenges ahead.

Some of these challenges are obvious. We’re being asked (and, in some counties, ordered) to stay in our homes and avoid contact with others. The markets are falling dramatically. Small businesses, including your dental practice, are struggling across America.

But America was built on struggle.

Morgan Housel recently remarked on how times of pain and need make innovation necessary. “The Great Depression brought unimaginable financial pain. It also brought us supermarkets, microwaves, sunscreen, jets, rockets, electron microscopes, magnetic recording, nylon, photocopying, teflon, helicopters, color TV, plexiglass, commercial aviation, most forms of plastic, synthetic rubber, laundromats, and countless other discoveries.

Same for World War II, which is responsible for both the most risk and the most rapid invention of any six-year period in history. The war began with troops on horseback. It ended by splitting an atom in half.”

And to put the market decline into some context – as of this writing at 9:45am on March 18th the S&P 500 index currently sits at April 24, 2017 levels, when people were shocked at how high the market had risen.

So what are we supposed to do today?

 

Stay calm.

It’s ok to step back for a minute. The constant news updates about the coronavirus (a crazy 15% of all daily web traffic) can overwhelm the mind. Ironically, our desire to gain control through a steady diet of information can actually result in a kind of mental paralysis and our losing the ability to act. It’s a vicious cycle: we worry, we try to use information to control our environment, we worry more. This constant anxiety paralyzes the mind.

One simple way to regain agency – our ability to act – in challenging times (and this is for me as much as anyone) is to intentionally limit our media exposure. Take a deep breath.

If you’re able to spend more time with your loved ones, be grateful for that. If you have kids, play games (just not the one where you use toilet paper to turn yourself into a mummy). And if your loved ones get to be a bit much, go for a walk or lock yourself in the bathroom (there’s another toilet paper joke here, but I can’t find it).

 

Look ahead, plan, and execute.

This is the time when leaders will get out in front. I know several doctors who are using this time to train staff or go chartless. Almost every crisis is an opportunity. You’re taking a break from seeing patients – use this time to work on your business instead of in your business.

That’s what I’m planning to do. At Integrity Practice Sales, we have a mission. Here it is:

Selling a business is hard, and most dentists don’t have the tools they need to get the best price and terms in today’s dynamic market.

Our mission is to deliver the expertise, support, and network required for a truly successful practice sale, so that dentists can financially support their loved ones, protect their reputation, and leave their practice in good hands.

I’ll be recalling that mission today especially and using this strange week to recommit myself and our team to that important work. (By the way, if you want to discuss the future of dental practice sales and transitions, feel free to email me directly. I’d love to hear from you at trevor@integritypracticesales.com.)

Am I worried about what things will look like on the other side of this pandemic? Of course. But I have a high degree of confidence that:

  1. People will continue to require dentistry (including the backlog of people missing treatment because of the temporary shutdown).
  2. Dentists will help those people.
  3. We will work to help those dentists.

Is it future proof? Not exactly, but I’m moving forward. And we’re not going to stop preparing practices to go on the market, showing practices, speaking with potential buyers, and working to put solid deals together.

You can use this time to work on your business, too. You probably also have a mission, whether it’s promoting healthy smiles or providing excellent care to all of your patients.

There are ways for you to enact your mission today, even when your practice is closed. Reach out and reassure patients. Everyone is looking for a word of encouragement or comfort right now – offer one! Post content on social media. Dentists have been infection control experts for decades. Use that knowledge to inform and reassure the public.

And you can absolutely make the most of this downtime by working to build your team, your marketing, and your systems.

Dr. Bill Kimball at Kimball Consulting, Inc. is utilizing ZOOM conferencing to continue team training during the downtime. You can try this as well. Since employees CAN utilize unemployment insurance for reduced hours (and without the one week waiting period), it’s fine to ask the team to join you in person at the office (with proper distancing), on the phone, or with video conferencing.

1 – You now have time to address those systems that have fallen by the wayside, such as:

  • New Patient Protocols
  • Case Presentation
  • Financial Arrangements
  • Scheduling
  • Marketing
  • Insurance or Membership Plan Discussions
  • Delta Premier Updates

2 – Get organized for reactivating charts. Knowing that your practice will be very busy once you and your team are safely back to work, you can call patients now to schedule in a few months. Dr. Bill Kimball suggests you take the next week to get organized and perhaps start calling patients as early as next week.

3 – Update your HR manual. The CDA has a free version online for members. It takes a little time and it’s cumbersome (even boring), but you really need an up-to-date copy and now might be the time to complete it.

4 – OSHA or HIPAA, CPR, or medical emergency training (all done virtually of course)

Here are a few more highlights to navigate some of the unique challenges that this unprecedented historical moment presents.

The IRS extends us some good news: “Individuals and businesses will have an extra 90 days to pay the IRS if they owe additional income tax for 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.” Federal Tax Extension (CNN link)

So does California: “This relief includes moving the various tax filing and payment deadlines that occur on March 15, 2020, through June 15, 2020, to June 15, 2020. This includes:

  • Partnerships and LLCs who are taxed as partnerships whose tax returns are due on March 15 now have a 90-day extension to file and pay by June 15.
  • Individual filers whose tax returns are due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to file and pay by June 15.
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to pay by June 15.” CA Tax Extension for Affected Taxpayers (That’s all of us, right?)

Your team CAN file for unemployment benefits: “If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week.” EDD COVID-19 Resources Page

We will get through this. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge to which we can all rise together. These moments of great necessity become moments of great innovation.

 

All the very best to you and your families,

The Team at Integrity Practice Sales.

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