Just how will Coronavirus affect dentistry? This blog runs the risk of becoming dated very quickly. The rapid spread of the new Coronavirus or COVID-19 is quite frightening. We wanted to open discussion on the potential effects this outbreak may have on your dentistry business.
Government Strategy for Coronavirus
The UK Government laid out their strategy to protect us from the worst effects of Coronavirus or COVID-19 which included:
- Containment – caring for any infected people and identifying their close contacts
- Delay – deciding what actions to take to slow down the spread
- Mitigation – damage limitation if the virus spreads widely
- Research – constant and ongoing work to inform the three other phases
New Phase of Coronavirus
It appears that, as of today, we are already moving in to the second phase of Coronavirus or COVID-19. This involves taking action to slow down the spread of the virus. We have all been advised that washing our hands and singing happy birthday is the best way to contain this outbreak. This seems to be very light advice, given the magnitude of the pandemic. It is possibly, however, the best advice we could be given.
Dental Clinics and Coronavirus
Dental clinics across the UK comply with the various regulations set out by various institutions. This means that our clinics are clean, sterile environments anyway. Can we do more? We examined the four stages laid out by the UK Government. How do we apply them to our own environments?
Overview of the Impact of Coronavirus or COVID-19 on UK Business
Businesses generally, across the UK, are setting out their “Business as Usual” stalls. The dental profession is no different. We deep clean and sterilise in order to maintain compliance. Can we do more? Probably not. Is this important? Probably not, unless we consider how our patients’ fear is building up. Our patients are faced with a barrage of advice on hygiene, looking after their family, social changes, etc. Would they not also be considering impact on their health when they visit their dentist? Demonstrate how hygienic you and your clinic are with notices and/or videos on social media. It may be someone’s birthday, but the messages you send out now will reassure your patients and will lessen the impact of appointment failures in the coming weeks/months.
Another element we should consider is our own business. If we are to contain and maintain what we have been building over the years, should we not be looking at analysing the effect that a COVID-19 outbreak could have on our businesses? Here’s a brief checklist which we could use as a starting point:
How will Coronavirus Impact Staffing in Dentistry?
Current thinking suggests that 20% of our population will be affected by Coronavirus. This includes both our staff and our patients. Firstly, how does self-isolation impact our current employment contracts? How would your business cope with a 20% shortfall in staff for a two week period? Do we pay staff and associates during this time? Would you ask your staff not to attend gatherings such as weddings or football matches as part of your risk reduction strategy? Do you have immediate access to cover, such as retired dentists/nurses, locum staff and clinicians?
Will Patients’ Reactions to Coronavirus Impact Dentistry?
Setting aside the issues of cross-contamination, how would we cope with 20% no-shows or last minute cancellations? How do your patients feel about going out of their safe environments into your clinic just for a check-up or non-emergency treatment? Are there ways of making them feel more comfortable about attendance (removal of magazines in the waiting room with a hygiene notice, or anything to provide patient confidence in your clinic being a safe environment). Taking steps now may reduce the impact of no-shows and cancellations.
What Will Happen to Supplies in Dentistry?
Our supply chain will be affected by the COVID-19. Go into your local supermarket today and try to buy hand soap or hand sanitisers. This applies to everything we buy from non-perishable foodstuff, to tickets to plays and concerts. In short, we can plan for failure of service and non-availability of products. Some will double or treble their orders to Henry Schein or Dental Directory, so we have already seen hand sanitisers and masks being of limited supply. No supplies, no treatments, no patients, no revenue, no business…you get the idea. Analyse your supply chains and the potential shortages to see how this would affect your business.
Will Coronavirus Financially Affect the Dentistry Profession?
We have already touched on elements that you will have to consider in you risk assessments that may cause revenue loss. Let’s have a look at other elements which may help to mitigate. If you have to self-isolate or are isolated for a two week period, do you get paid? Does your insurance cover this? You would assume so. You must check your insurance contracts for the word “pandemic” as this is often used as a get-out clause. Does your insurance cover every member of staff, including contracted associates?
If an associate is out of action for an extended period, how do their contracts impact the finances of the clinic? Do you have access to additional funding, should this be required? Are there financial investments that should be delayed for a few months? Use financial planning tools such as spreadsheets or accounting systems to build a robust financial strategy, given a number of scenarios.
Stress and the Coronavirus
You will notice an increased level of anxiety in your work colleagues, your patients, your family and your friends. This may lead to more stress than usual in your own lives. Think of your coping strategies now, rather than reacting to them later.
There are no short term answers to issues that will, undoubtedly, arise. We are months away from discovering any sort of cure to COVID-19 so we have no timeframes to work within. We are being bombarded with advice. The best advice is to be aware. Be aware of others, of our own health, of hygiene, and of the amazing service we provide. We are in new territory but we are not alone.