How Dental Office Managers Can Build a Resilient Practice

Resilience is a word that’s been instrumental in getting many of you through the past year. It will probably remain a mindset in the years to come, no matter what comes your way.  Like for many businesses, the pandemic forced dental practices to adapt in ways that would help them thrive.  Adapting can be intimidating when there are so many unknowns, but dental practices that choose to remain status quo are the ones that will continue to struggle even post-pandemic. Your patients’ expectations have already changed.  Look at this as a chance to step back and reassess. Ask yourself how can you be more resilient, and how can you practice it to overcome challenges at your dental practice?  Here are five ways dental office managers can build a more resilient practice.  Want to watch this instead? Amanda Ellsworth, senior product marketing manager at RevenueWell shares best practices you can implement to create a stronger office environment and improve communication among your team.

1. Find the opportunity to improve.  

The pandemic forced everyone to slow down and take a breath. This was a chance for practices to step back and figure out how to adapt and improve.  Everyone has projects they put off for various reasons. Just like you may have used your personal time to clean out that drawer or closet you’ve been avoiding or picking up a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, use the time to figure out how to cultivate a stronger practice and better dental patient experience. This is an approach to take even when this has passed. Make it a reoccurring initiative a few times a year.  Ginny Hegarty, founder, Dental Practice Development says, “The practices that made the shift the fastest were the ones that were able to say, ‘OK, take a deep breath and let’s look at where we are and realize we’re not a product of our circumstances, we’re a product of our decisions.”  Here are some questions to ask yourself?  

  • Are there ways to improve efficiencies?  
  • What’s been working well?
  • Is your tech stack working for you and your team?
  • How can your team better communicate with each other?  
  • Is your office culture a supportive and safe environment?  
  • How can you continue to ensure patients feel safe?

If your practice has the budget, consider purchasing new technology to help you automate certain tasks. Implementing and training your team on technology can be time-consuming, but now’s an ideal time to look into it. Technology can help you work more efficiently so you can focus on other areas of your role.  Check out our eBook if you’re interested in reading more ways to build a resilient dental practice!

2. Honor your team's collective genius.  

It’s true that there’s strength in numbers. Every individual at your practice plays a part in helping it grow. Everyone has a valuable perspective. As you’re figuring out ways to improve the office and the dental patient experience, be sure to involve your entire team.  It’s important to foster a culture of openness and emphasize there are no bad ideas. Everyone wants to feel included and heard. And, when everyone has a chance to contribute to solving challenges, then it creates a positive work culture which ultimately impacts patient acquisition and retention.  

3. Built an empathetic work environment.

2020 is a year none of us will ever forget. It’s been a year of having to adapt, be flexible and have empathy. Everyone has dealt with their own challenges over the past year and the lines between work and home have blurred.  Fostering a positive and supportive work environment is important for the team’s morale. Of course, it shouldn’t disingenuous. Everyone has rough days so it’s also good to be open about it. As the office manager or office lead, don’t be embarrassed to admit if you’re not having a great day. Being open creates a safe space for your team to be open about their feelings. This also encourages everyone to lift each other up and help where they can. An empathetic work culture impacts the dental patient experience as well. Your patients can pick up on the energy, both good and bad.  

4. Strengthen communication.

People are ready to do normal activities again, and yes, that includes going to the dentist. According to the ADA Health Policy Institute’s poll from January 2021, 88% indicated they’re gone back to the dentist or they’re comfortable going. You’ll have patients who look forward to the face-to-face interaction. Chances are there are some who have had minimal human interaction during the pandemic so these appointments will matter even more. There’s going to be some unease with returning to the dentist too, so setting expectations is a good way to make your patients comfortable. You can also use text and email to supplement your communication. When your patients know what to expect during their visit, then that creates trust. As a result, they’re more likely to return for regular appointments.  

5. Add extra layers of safety.

The pandemic changed people’s expectations around safety and cleanliness. Additionally, your patients have become accustomed to doing many activities online like ordering groceries, video conferencing with family and friends and paying the bills. This is the new normal and is likely to stay.  Your patients will have similar expectations for your practice. You’ll have patients who prefer filling out online forms versus paper forms. You’ll also have patients who may want to do a virtual visit because their concern doesn’t require an in-person visit. Online forms are an easy way to minimize germ spreading. Prior to the pandemic, you probably didn’t think twice about handing a pen and clipboard to a patient, but now the thought might seem less appealing.  Another option to have at your practice is teledentistry. Teledentistry offers your patients a way to see the dentist for minor concerns and questions. It won’t replace in-person visits, but it’s a good option for your patients if they’re feeling under the weather or if they’re too busy to come to the practice. When doing virtual appointments, be sure to put more thought into the call. Think about the video angles and add some character to your background. It makes a difference and helps to create a connection between you and the patient. Additionally, it sets a professional tone and instills trust. Giving your patients choices on how they want to handle their dental visits is a way to build strong relationships with them. They’ll appreciate the attention to safety and convenience and how you’ve adapted to these new expectations.  Remember that resilience is a cultivated practice. With a resilient mindset, you can play a part in building a stronger dental practice no matter what might come your way in the future.  

Interested in diving into more ways to strengthen your dental practice and team? Download the eBook to get more tips and inspiration.