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The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on dental office schedules and forcing some dentists to consider just shutting down and walking away from everything they have worked so hard to build.

 

That’s the wrong strategy, said Alex Giannini, a dentist with more than 30 years of experience founding and operating dental practices and dental support organizations. He is currently the Chief Strategy Officer for Aligned Dental Partners.

He published a white paper in March called Practice and Personal Preservation Strategies and also taped a video interview with Amol Nirgudkar, the CEO of Patient Prism, to talk about how dentists can navigate through the economic impact of this pandemic.

 

What Dentists Should Do Personally

“The primary role of the dentist is to be the leader,” said Dr. Giannini. “Now is not the time to abdicate that role.”

In order to take care of your team, you need to take care of yourself. Doing simple things like eating right, sleeping, exercising, establishing a routine and taking care of your basic human needs such as food, medicine, and shelter are all key to having a healthy body and a healthy mindset.

The next step is to understand what resources are available to you. “How much cash can you access in the form of checking, savings, lines of credit, cash value life insurance policies, retirement plans and available credit card lines?” asked Dr. Giannini.

Then trim your personal expenses except for the basics: food, health, transportation and shelter.

 

What Dentists Should Do to Preserve Cash Flow

The same methodology applies to your professional life. In order to preserve cash flow, dentists can freeze all automated payments and credit card payments. Then they can talk to their landlords, lenders and vendors to pause or reduce payments until the practice reopens.

Dentists should be collecting Accounts Receivable from insurance companies, resubmitted outstanding claims, and figuring out how much is due from patients.  That doesn’t mean that you’ll call those patients to collect right now; it’s important to be sensitive to what your patients may be going through financially.

But it’s a great time to clean up your A/R by these metrics:

  • A/R Aging Totals
  • Outstanding Insurance A/R Totals
  • Claims Status
  • Claims Needing Information to Resubmit

 

Unfortunately, payroll is usually a large part of a dental practice’s overhead. If a dentist needs to reduce workforce, it’s important to do it with compassion and to let them know it’s so they can file for unemployment and be eligible for the government assistance through the newly-passed coronavirus aid legislation.

In his whitepaper, Dr. Giannini outlines furloughs versus layoffs and the considerations for each. What’s most important is treating the team with dignity and compassion, letting them know that you’re doing this so they can take advantage of the unemployment benefits, and reassuring them that hopefully this is only temporary and you’ll be reopening again soon.

Here are more tips on preserving cash flow »

If your total cash resource are not enough to sustain your business, then you will need to turn to family, friends, or the government SBA loans program for assistance, Dr. Giannini said.

“One of my favorite quotes is that we judge ourselves by our intentions, but others judge us by our actions,” said Dr. Giannini. “If employees feel like they got abandoned, that they’re left out in the cold, then they’re not going to want to come back when the dentist is ready to ramp up again. But if folks see that you care abut them and that you’re doing the best that you can for them, then they’re going to remember that and they’ll be there for you when you need them.”

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