Is a business restructure in order?
“Determining the operational structure required in the new world post-COVID-19 will be a key challenge for dental practices,” he says. “For example, how might dentists best utilise teledentistry, which I believe will become essential? How can businesses organise fewer patients per day and limit people in the waiting room, along with any other requirements designed to minimise virus transmission? In turn, it’s important to consider what the operational changes mean for finances. If fewer patients and more PPE/safety requirements are the future, the new working regime will likely lead to reduced income and increased outgoings, at least in the short-term.
“Another challenge will be phasing treatments and services back in gradually but effectively, perhaps delaying aerosol generating procedures (AGP) for longer than other processes. Plus, practices need to re-build trust among their patients.”
For any dental practices concerned about cashflow, Nigel offers some advice:
“For any practices that haven’t already, I would strongly recommend taking advantage of the government support currently available. Creating a war chest will help you survive the first few months of re-opening, which could involve reduced earning capacity.
“Operational efficiency is also essential. Minimising downtime with patients will be key, so perhaps look into taking payments over the phone or enhancing the patient membership plans you offer to secure at least a percentage of your income for the foreseeable future. These types of tools will be invaluable to businesses. They will also help to future-proof the practice, offering a level of confidence and security in its sustainability.
“Finally, I think it’s important for practice owners to be selective about their sources of information. There is so much ‘guidance’ out there at the moment that it can be difficult to know what to do. Using just 3-4 reliable resources will be far more productive – the Practice Plan COVID-19 Resource Hub is updated daily with useful information designed specifically for practice owners.”
Without a crystal ball, no one can predict with certainty what the future holds for dentistry. However, Nigel shares his educated thoughts on what we could see in the medium- and long-term, saying:
“I would be fascinated to see the impact of all this on NHS dentistry. The Government has long prioritised access to dental care, but the potential reduction in patient numbers per practice could reshape future NHS dental contracts and the provision of NHS dentistry.
“I have also seen an interesting attitudinal shift with people wanting more control over their own destiny. Many associates working in NHS practices are concerned about whether they will be paid the right amount, while those in private practices are hoping to get the opportunity to recuperate their complete loss of earnings. Similarly, some NHS practices have been unnerved by how dependant they are on the NHS – which is effectively one customer. This lack of control could lead to new business structures and potentially more associates wanting to acquire their own practices. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds as the profession gets back on its feet.”