5 molars in a row

In this era of uncertainty for small businesses, a break-even strategy is the foundation of an independent dental practice’s immediate survival, while proactive planning is key to its ultimate longevity.

The new coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that preparedness prevents hardship, if not tragedy. Yet while the reopening of the economy will prove extraordinarily challenging given the reach of the public health crisis, the reopening of a dental practice can be less complicated.

Spear has announced its new Practice Recovery program – an initiative that helps dental practices understand steps for financial stabilization, team design and stronger scheduling, giving them a clearer focus on how to manage layoffs, furloughs, loans and other issues related to the decline in revenues due to the mandated stoppage of elective procedures.

The new program was innovated by Spear Practice Solutions experts who were analyzing real-time data from client practices in March as the mandated shutdowns were announced. As Spear team members created and applied plans with their clients, they realized the need for a plan that extends to every impacted practice, beyond Practice Solutions clientele.

Practice Recovery is available to anyone with a Spear Online membership, including study clubs and specialist practices. The program provides a framework with virtual training tools and growth plans that help dentists and their teams avoid missing any opportunity to generate meaningful revenue in the “new normal.”

PRACTICE RECOVERY: Spear Online members can begin Practice Recovery now and discover the “4 Key Initiatives” for break-even strategies to mitigate the financial strain and align your team to treat patients in this unprecedented time.

Practice guidance for the path forward

Dr. Mitch Ellingson, Executive Vice President for Practice Growth, said the Practice Recovery program provides clear steps to reduce the financial damage and prevent any feeling of inertia as dental professionals return to the office and begin seeing patients for non-emergency care.

“Everybody will go through the same learning curve in the re-entry process, whether you’re a specialist or general practitioner,” said Dr. Ellingson, who has owned and operated various practices in Arizona, ranging from a single practice with a four-person team to a network of 11 practices with a combined team of 85, where he served as president and director of clinical care.

The Practice Recovery “4 Key Initiatives” provide a framework for a team to operationally work through and feel more confident heading into the remainder of a challenging year.

“We’ve calculated exactly how to bring your talent back to ‘work’ in waves, using a thoughtful process to determine which key team members are uniquely positioned, due to their skills and temperament, to address the four initiatives and ultimately make the most positive impact on your practice,” Dr. Ellingson added.

Dr. Ellingson, Dr. Gary DeWood and practice management guru Amy Morgan, along with the team of dedicated Practice Solutions consultants, are following trends in declining production and benefit plan reimbursement. Using information from a wide range of practices to guide the development of Practice Recovery tools, they’ve created multimedia content like new virtual workshops that address everything from human resources to safety and communication strategies to reengage anxious staff members and create the foundation to reopen with greater precision.

“(Practice Recovery is) a way to create a path forward with guidance. But the truth is, you have to be the guide. You’re the dentist. You’re the guide for your office team. It has to come from you first.” – Dr. Gary DeWood, Spear Executive Vice President

Practice Recovery content is based on the Practice Solutions team’s work with national and local dental organizations, accountants and legal analysts – including those who sit on a regular Practice Solutions panels – to analyze government relief packages, loan programs, unemployment insurance and other resources so that accurate information is conveyed to the entire Spear community.

“All of us are fully engaged in an unavoidable learning moment,” Dr. Ellingson said. “It is a recession that arises from an unprecedented event. Your life is crazier than it has ever been, even though you haven’t been ‘working.’ Now you must figure out messaging, scheduling, receivables management and financing as you adjust to this new normal.”

“No one gets to avoid this,” he said. “It became increasingly obvious to us that we needed to make Practice Recovery available to everybody in our Spear family.”

Coaching from Spear practice management experts

The harsh reality of the COVID-19 crisis is that many practices are unclear when they will recognize meaningful revenues.

Will it be June? July? Or later if the practice team is unprepared? Now that the initial shock has passed, how do dentists recover?

According to the Practice Recovery framework, dentists must be excellent at understanding money. This begins with breaking even with a recovery budget, understanding how long you can last without assistance, and how long you can last by using loans.

It’s a time of increased stress, so dentists must convey a presence of stability and remain a positive influence on their teams. In times of crisis and tragedy, true leaders emerge, loyal team members step up, and the like-minded band together.

The Practice Recovery program provides steps and coaching to build an action plan focused on:

  • Financial preservation
  • Reengagement of the team
  • Leadership to drive practice cohesion during this recovery phase
  • “4 Key Initiatives” that any practice can follow to build an execution cadence

Dr. DeWood, one of Spear’s founding faculty and practice management experts behind the rollout of Practice Recovery, said the four initiatives provide a practice with firm guidance, but also versatility to address specific needs.

“In some practices, some of those initiatives might already be handled quite well in advance of what we’ll face with reopening,” Dr. DeWood said. “But within each initiative, you can identify what is most important for your practice to come out of this crisis. We wanted to create a framework that you can refer to.”

“It’s a way to create a path forward with guidance,” he said. “But the truth is, you have to be the guide. You’re the dentist. You’re the guide for your office team. It has to come from you first.”

Practice Recovery ‘4 Key Initiatives,’ virtual workshops

Practice Recovery experts developed four essential components for financial stability and preparedness for the future:

  • Managing receivables
    Quite simply - money is crucial, more than ever. Missing opportunity for revenue in lean times can mean the difference between survival and failure.
  • Patient messaging
    It’s essential to communicate clearly with patients that the dental office is safe and how your office is managing the crisis. But there are different strategies based on current needs vs. what a practice team needs once patients return in person.
  • Strategic scheduling
    Each practice needs a recovery scheduling expert so they can ramp up right away and put hundreds of cancelations into a meaningful cadence.
  • Patient financing
    A practice needs to make it financially possible for often-skeptical patients to achieve their optimal oral health in a time of economic downturn.

The first step in the Practice Recovery program is to complete a recovery budget, followed by the “Recovery Budget & Analysis” workshop.

The information gleaned from that workshop informs a Team Design plan to identify the structure for a revamped team, with clean plans on when to recall employees and align personnel with a recovery budget following the initiatives.

PRACTICE SOLUTIONS: While you can ask questions during Practice Recovery live webinars, you may find that your team could benefit from additional guidance and personal attention. Please reach to out to us at sps@speareducation.com to learn more about customizable Practice Solutions options.

Drs. DeWood and Ellingson both said that the Practice Recovery program was made possible through more than three years’ development of Practice Solutions, which Spear developed as an alternative to traditional, “cookie-cutter” dental consulting. It proved essential to have that firmly established online platform to support more detailed crisis-management solutions.

Practice Solutions combines dedicated coaching and consultation with targeted learning from Spear faculty, real-time analytics, and customized action plans – giving independent practices a business framework to address practice goals.

The faculty and experts behind Practice Solutions essentially developed months’ worth of original content in about three weeks, working feverishly to monitor updates and distill such a wide array of detail into the Practice Recovery framework.

Dr. Ellingson said the results have been nothing short of emotional at times.

“We’ve gotten people to come back from quitting dentistry to lead their teams,” he said. “All you need to do is take advantage of the resources available. This is not me, this is not Spear – this is life. We just care that dental practices get the help they need.”