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COVID-19 Hacks for Dental Practices

The COVID-19 virus forced dentists and DSO leaders to scramble to overcome problem after problem.

Emmet Scott, the co-founder and CEO of Community Dental Partners and the host of the DSO Secrets podcast, found that dentists needed a network of resources now more than ever. He talked to Patient Prism CEO Amol Nirgudkar about ways for dental practices to thrive during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

The takeaway was a number of “hacks” for individual dental practices, group practices and DSOs to weather the quarantine – and even come out of it ready to achieve more success than before the pandemic. Two major themes emerged: mindset matters, and cultivating the right network is crucial.

Emmet and Amol agreed early in their talk that the size of a business is not the most important factor.

“I felt that personally, I don't care what size business you have, this hit everyone at a personal level,” Emmet said. “And I think that's kind of the first principle that I would say is that there hasn't been as big an advantage or disadvantage as I would have expected based on size.”

For example, a large DSO might have more resources and more refined crisis management processes than a small group or an individual practice. But the greater complexity of a large, multi-state organization might counteract those perceived advantages.

A smaller organization, meanwhile, might have fewer resources than an established DSO, but might be better-positioned to reinvent itself in response to industry-wide changes related to the pandemic and concurrent economic downturn.

No matter what, though, the best way forward is to approach the challenge with a constructive mindset.

The Right Mindset

Emmet Scott pointed out that while everyone loves a bull market, but “we forget that capitalism, its real power is the down markets.”

Allowing companies to fail creates an urgency that fuels competition. During “normal” times, business surges and dips gradually. During crises, businesses can collapse seemingly overnight. Emmet called this concept the “great accelerator.”

Where some might see doom and gloom, he sees opportunity – for those who approach the issues with the right mindset.

For example, Emmet and Amol talked about how to approach the pandemic-related fears of office staff, hygienists, assistants and patients. The biggest component of those fears is the sense of the unknown.

Part of the job as the head of a practice or DSO is to empathize with those concerns.

“You know, I have to sit down with them and say, ‘Where are your biggest concerns?’” Emmet said. “Here's what I know. Here's what I don't know, and see if I can lead them to a place of confidence.”

Related to that sense of empathy with staff and patients is taking a humble approach. No one is going to find the perfect solution every time.

As an example, Emmet cited the failure of some dentists to consider the point-of-view of hygienists when implementing new procedures. When this failure is discovered after the fact, there are two ways to move forward.

One is get upset at the hygienist’s reaction. This way, Emmet said, is destructive.

“They're frustrated and they're doing some blaming around that,” Emmet said. “But there's also individual dentists who are saying, ‘My bad, I needed to include them in the conversation earlier on. I missed this on, on the checklist of items, so to speak. My communication should have been more intense.’”

It comes down to a mindset based on humility, Emmet said.

“What I think this boils down to is who was the fastest to get humble about their misses,” he said. “You might've just had a blind spot. You missed communicating with your team, right? But did you own that and say, ‘Oh, that was a mess. Let's go back. Let's start working the team through the process.’ Or did you kind of stand where you're at and you're like, ‘It's because of them. They messed up. I'm mad at them.’ And you're just wasting valuable time.”

One other thing Emmet pointed out is that even before COVID-19 created the need for a worldwide lockdown, dental practices were only operating at about 65% market penetration. That’s a lot of potential patients sitting on the sideline – even before the CDC’s pandemic guidelines went into effect.

That leaves a lot of opportunity for growth, Emmet said.

“I'm actually really excited about it,” he said. “And I know that's going to sound crazy, but before COVID, 65% of people, according to ADA and other studies … 65% of people were not going to the dentist. Okay? Now think about that. What's the opportunity basket that's been sitting there, not because of COVID-19, but because of our inadequacies and our accountability, our inability to access the customer because we were allowing the mind share of other products to enter instead of oral health. So, what I look at is what's in my control.”

“Your Net Worth is Your Network”

Naturally, mindset can be affected by circumstances. For instance, despair could set in as revenue shrinks and uncertainty takes hold.

One way to fight despair is to make sure you are as informed as possible. Knowledge really is power, and – in addition to scientific sources and respected news organizations – one key way to stay in the know is through your network of colleagues and professional friends.

While Emmet is active on Facebook groups, he recommends that everyone should build a network beyond social media.

“So, one hack I would give to individual practices and to emerging groups is do not let your network be (only) Facebook,” Emmet said. “If that's all you've got, you're getting poor information and a mixture of mindsets that may not be servicing you well.”

There are practical considerations for building an effective network, Emmet said. For example, if the owner of a small practice has trouble acquiring necessary resources during an economic downturn, he or she could turn to their network.

And not just for moral support.

“If you're missing resources, you're probably more missing a network or you're not taking advantage of your network,” Emmet said. “So, getting into a better network would be your biggest resource. … Build that network and you could find gold.”

Other DSO Hacks to Survive and Thrive

The pain of the past few months ushered in a lot of new technology. Some of these include:

  • Teledentistry
  • Online Scheduling Modules
  • Online Chat
  • 2-Way Texting
  • Social Media Messaging and Marketing
  • Enhanced PPE and Safety Protocols

If you or your team think your patients wouldn’t be interested in using these types of technology, just ask them, Emmet recommends.

“You’ve really got to know what your customer is most interested in,” said Emmet. “Let’s just ask them what’s their biggest concern? We may be worried about aerosols, but they may be most interested in seeing that the door handles have been wiped down.”

Another hack is making sure everyone in your practice and call center is an expert at showing compassion and empathy through their voice inflection. Since everyone will be wearing masks, it will be more important than ever to have a soothing voice and confident answers when speaking with patients.

“[Many patients have] always felt a level of insecurity being in a dental office, the white coat concept and all of that,” said Emmet. “And you've been really good on training on that connection, safety, friendliness component. Now patients are going to be worried about more than just being judged about how they floss. They’re going to be worried about whether they’re wearing a mask right, how close they’re allowed to get to other people, and other things that make them feel insecure.”

For more hacks and guidance, check out the video.

Additional Resources

Click here to join the DSO Secrets Facebook group.

Guide: Staying Safe in the Dental Practice: Guidance on everything from what the CDC recommends to how to acquire PPE to whether you should pass along the cost to patients.

Guide: Comeback Strategies for Dental Practices

For more interviews with experts, training resources, and guides, visit Academy.PatientPrism.com.

There will be a huge need for dentistry once people can resume normal activities. More people than ever will have questions about safety, affordable treatment options, and what’s covered by their insurance plans post-COVID. Visit PatientPrism.com/Overview to find out how we can help your team convert more callers into booked appointments.

About this Industry Leader:

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Emmet Scott

CEO and Co-Founder, Community Dental Partners

Emmet Scott is the CEO and co-founder of Community Dental Partners and Smile Magic Dentistry and Braces.

Emmet is the host of DSO Secrets, a podcast focused on the group dental industry. He created a Facebook group by the same name for leaders in the dental group industry to discuss some of the most difficult components of running a DSO.

He is also a senior faculty member of The Dentist Entrepreneur Organization (DEO) and on the Executive Committee of ADSO.

Before growing the Smile Magic pediatric dental support organization, Emmet built and sold two financial planning firms. He then launched his own radio show from Las Vegas called “The Entrepreneur Life” and established a consulting firm branded “Entrepreneur Advisors.”

He is married with five children, all redheads. When not working, he enjoys reading business and leadership books, watching TED talks, and playing racquetball. He is fluent in American Sign Language and worked with deaf students in California and Arizona as part of a two-year church missionary program. He graduated from Brigham Young University in accounting.

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