© Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com
Sitting At Computer

Use this downtime to make improvements that strengthen your practice

April 9, 2020
Most dentists have closed their offices and have some extra time, but what are they doing with it? Sally McKenzie says now is a good time to make some office improvements that you've been putting off.
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management

COVID-19 has brought this country and the world to a standstill. Like many other business owners, you’ve probably closed your doors to help slow the spread. You know it’s the right thing to do to keep yourself, your team members, and your patients healthy, but of course you’re concerned about what this temporary closure will mean for your practice.

This isn’t an easy situation, and it’s natural to be worried about your financial future. Just know there are steps you can take now to set yourself up for success once you reopen. You can use this time to make improvements that will strengthen your practice, and I’m here to help you get started. Here are my ideas:

Follow up on all unpaid insurance claims

This is critical, as you have no new revenue coming in right now. I suggest you run a report to see how many outstanding insurance claims the office has, and then start contacting the insurance companies that haven’t paid.

Give your website some love

How often do you visit your website? Now’s your chance to make sure it’s easy to navigate, is esthetically pleasing, and provides patients with important information about your practice. This includes dentist and team member bios, details about the services you provide, and how to contact your office to schedule an appointment. You might also want to add an update on how your practice is responding to this unprecedented crisis. Let patients know you’re still available for phone and email communication if they have dental-related questions.

Need some inspiration for website updates? Check out what other practices are doing, especially those in your area. What do these sites have that yours doesn’t? Create a list of any updates you’d like to see and share it with your website designer. Talk to your designer about how to improve traffic and entice more new patients to schedule once you’re back up and running.

Take a stroll through your office

As you stroll, look at your office through your patients’ eyes. Make a list of any improvements that could be made, and then start working on the tasks you can take on yourself. Maybe a fresh coat of paint and clean carpets will brighten up the office, for example. Consider adding plants to the reception area or art to your walls (pictures of successful cases are always a good option). Patients will notice and appreciate the changes when they can return.

Make social media a priority

This is probably the best way to communicate with patients right now. They’re home too and are turning to platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay connected more than ever. I suggest you commit to evaluating your social media strategy and getting more involved with these platforms. Think about how your content can be more engaging and track which types of posts garner the most interaction. These are the posts you’ll want to do more often.

Just like with your website, I recommend looking at what other dentists are doing to get the most out of social media. Plenty of dentists enjoy great success with these platforms. Don’t be afraid to start using some of their techniques to improve your social media presence.

Read and respond to online reviews

This is an important marketing task, but one that often falls through the cracks at busy dental practices. Now you have some time to catch up.

Thank patients who post positive reviews and let them know you appreciate them choosing your practice as their dental home. When you come across a negative review, apologize and let patients know you’re working to address the problem. Ask if they’d like to talk offline so you can learn more about the situation and take the necessary action. If they agree, take their feedback seriously. Use what they tell you to make positive changes to your practice and possibly even win back an unhappy patient.

Don’t have any online reviews to read through? Start asking for them. Just be sure to reach out to loyal, happy patients. You’d be surprised how many will say yes, especially now when they’re at home looking for things to do.

Strengthen weak systems

Unfortunately, weak systems that held you back before this pandemic are not going to get any better while you’re at home, unless you make it a priority to fix them. Take this opportunity to really look at your systems, identify problems, and put a plan in place to make changes. If case acceptance is low, for example, think about ways you can increase education efforts and improve case presentations. Implement the plans you’ve put together as soon as you’re back in the office treating patients.

Look for free educational opportunities

Investing part of your time in learning will enhance your skills and keep you focused on growing your practice. I have more than 50 free webinars you can access at practicemanagementlearning.com. The webinars address a variety of areas that are crucial right now, including improving case acceptance and increasing patient retention.

And remember that you’re not alone. You can reach out to others for guidance during these uncertain times. I’m now offering virtual video conferencing coaching to help dentists strengthen their practices and prepare to reopen. Don’t hesitate to contact me to set up a time to talk. As always, I’m here to help.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. For over 30 years, Sally has immersed herself in techniques, systems, and methods to improve the performance of dental practices. She was a dental auxiliary, dental business administrator, and dental educator for several years prior to founding McKenzie Management in 1980. Contact her at (877) 777-6151 or [email protected].

For updates and information about the coronavirus pandemic and how it's affecting dentists, visit DentistryIQ's COVID-19 resource center.