During this unprecedented time in dentistry, it pays to be prepared. Here are a few actions to take if you haven’t already:
Call your insurance agent ASAP. Maybe you have an office insurance policy that covers office overhead and office production/income. A week ago, I called my agent and found out that the plans we have — although very comprehensive against typical disasters such as flood, fire, tornado, etc. — do not cover biological causation, so our practice is on its own during this period of recommended closure. Call your agent, and find out if your plan allows for biological causations. Sadly, I have been informed by my agent that very few plans do. This lack of coverage will certainly have an impact on your practice management decisions in the near future and will hopefully bring about change in the insurance industry.
Call your banker if you have existing loans or mortgages. Rates have plummeted due to the COVID-19 crisis, and it’s certainly advantageous to inquire about refinancing any existing loans or mortgages. There’s usually a decent amount of paperwork to submit during this process, but, since we all have a bit of extra time on our hands these days, that may prove to be a nonissue or even a welcome bit of productive work. Refinance now, and save.
Call your office manager and other key players in your practice. With so many of our practices closed or operationally limited, finances are very tight, and the future remains uncertain. Conduct a virtual meeting with your core management team to game-plan how your practice will stay afloat if you are advised to only see emergency patients for an additional two, four, six and even 12 weeks. You should also discuss the practice’s breaking point, and game-plan a “doomsday” scenario. Review both your fixed and variable expenses, and plan decisions that would be indicated at each time interval. For example, do you need a cleaning crew for your office twice a week? Should you switch to on-call emergency dentistry versus physically waiting at the practice for the phone to ring? This will be a very difficult conversation, but open and honest brainstorming with your core players will make it more bearable as you all share the burden and stress. Perhaps most importantly, your employees will know that every potentially unpleasant decision was made with careful consideration and as a team. While that probably won’t take the sting out of those decisions completely, it will at least provide a sense of understanding and pride that decisions were not made lightly.
Call your landlord. Dentists have historically been excellent tenants for landlords. Once we’re established, we rarely move locations, and we typically pay rent on time. In this crisis, though, that last part may be difficult. Call your landlord, and have an honest discussion about the difficulties your practice and dentistry as a whole are facing. Explain the massive financial burden of being advised to only see emergency patients and how that affects practice production. Perhaps the two of you will be able to work out a plan or compromise regarding the rent. Please realize that your landlord is also possibly under pressure due to his or her mortgage, so, as always, be professional and courteous in your discussion. Everything tends to filter down from the top — if the banks grant leniency on mortgages, that will certainly prompt landlords to grant leniency on their tenants. If nothing else, starting a dialogue with your landlord will keep the lines of communication open between both parties, which is always positive.
Try to improve yourself and the situation in general. AGD offers a slew of educational opportunities online. Find a topic (or several) that interests you, and register. Our professional lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19. Take back a modicum of control by completing a few online educational opportunities. In addition to improving yourself, improve your surroundings and the situation in general. You likely received the AGD Action request via VoterVoice.net urging each of us to tell Congress to support COVID-19-related relief for the dental profession. This is a great opportunity to have a direct effect on the profession as a whole, in addition to your practice, staff and patients. Share the link with coworkers, friends, family and anyone who is sympathetic to what is presently happening in dentistry. Support AGD’s actions to support us all.
I wish you all the best during this difficult time. We will get through this.
Looking for some input on investments from a fellow general dentist? Check out AGD Investment Chair Dr. Portwood's perspectives.
Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI, received his degree in 2005 from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. Since 2009 he has owned and operated his private practice, Oral Health Care Professionals LLC, located in Downers Grove, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Dr. Jackson has earned Mastership in the Academy of General Dentistry as well as Fellowship in the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, the International College of Dentistry, and the Academy of Dentistry International. He has served as the official team dentist of the Chicago Bandits women’s professional fastpitch softball team since 2013 and presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Academy for Sports Dentistry.