COVID-19: WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
DR. ACE GOERIG, Owner and Co-Founder
A month seems like a very long time now. One month, we were busily preparing for the AAE Annual Meeting, which would have been held this week—now canceled. A month ago, financial markets were still near their all-time highs—not anymore. A month ago, we were all hoping the initial measures to control COVID-19 would let us sidestep a worldwide crisis—pandemic declared, and measures have been escalated.
In times of uncertainty, leadership is more important than ever. Obviously, we are watching what the government and health authorities are doing, but we must also ask ourselves what kind of leadership the people around us need from us at this time. As a healthcare provider, a business owner, an employer, a provider for your family, and an influencer for many people in your life, what you do now can make a world of difference. Here’s my take on what we all should be focusing on:
As a profession, the last thing we want is patients having to go to a hospital ER because of dental pain. They will be mixed in with infectious patients and overwhelmed ER doctors are going to be unable to provide our standard of care for dental emergencies. That means more than ever we have a vital role right now, especially as some referring offices close completely. Their patients who experience a dental emergency have to go somewhere.
To respond to that need, we have to stay current with the latest clinical guidance for infection control and mitigation of the coronavirus within our practices. Plus, let your local ER know that you remain open so they can offload any endodontic emergencies from the hospital to your practice.
As a specialist, you are connected to a lot of general practitioners, and each of them are going to respond to this crisis in different ways. While some GP practices are going to remain open for dental emergencies, many may close completely because they don’t have the volume of dental emergencies to warrant staying open every day. It’s important that you send an email to every doctor who has referred to you in the last two years that you remain open to handle the dental emergencies of their patients.
For your regular referrers, you should also reach out doctor-to-doctor personally. This can be by phone call, or even just a text message asking, “How are you doing?” That opens the door to some insightful conversations and deeper relationships. On a weekly basis, you should send your referrers useful information you have found to help them navigate the current situation, especially if you can tailor that information to concerns they have expressed to you in your conversations.
Some Endo Mastery practices have reported being as busy as ever due to referred emergencies, and they remain open and their team fully employed like usual. Most endodontists, however, are going to experience some decrease in revenues as this drags on, which may lead to reduced team schedules or putting team members on furlough. As well, there are team members who are fearful and do not want to leave home at this time.
It is vital that you communicate with your team members as soon as you know any change in employment schedules that may affect them. Team members with reduced schedules or put on furlough must be told to apply for available federal and state assistance programs immediately because you cannot guarantee when they will be back to a full schedule. Check your state unemployment guidelines, and also call your healthcare benefits provider to understand what you must do to ensure their healthcare coverage continues without interruption while working part-time or while on furlough.
As a leader, it is also important that you stay in touch with all your team members on a weekly basis at a minimum. Use Zoom or some other web conference software to have a weekly online team meeting. Keep them hopeful and optimistic by sharing positive stories, and ideas on how to keep up their spirits (and their families) when everyone starts to feel a bit of cabin fever.
As the government passes stimulus laws, you should be taking every step to ensure your practice can take advantage of the benefits made available. We can’t predict what will come down the line, but right now you should apply for the Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL) from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Useful link: COVID-19 Relief from the SBA
This emergency “loan” program provides a $10,000 grant that is forgiven. You can apply now and be accepted, even if you don’t actually use the money until later in the crisis.
Also take advantage of the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) that will pay all your payroll, health insurance, rent and utilities for 2 months. You obtain this through your local banker. For a complete description of these benefits, watch the Cain Water videos.
- Useful link: Cain Waters: Understanding the CARES Act
As a general rule, you want to stay abreast of everything that 1) assists your team, 2) assists you with your own income replacement, and 3) helps you cover practice expenses.
Another thing that may be really important is setting up your ability to do teledentistry to triage patients by video meeting prior to them coming into the practice. You should also check if your state allows a teledentistry consultation to establish a new patient as a “patient of record” … allowing you to issue prescriptions remotely if referring doctors are not screening patient emergencies.
If you do have time on your hands, this is also a great opportunity to dig into some of those “someday” things around the practice. It will also help you stay away from the endless barrage of news and social media, which will only drain your energy if you consume too much of it. You can do things like deep cleaning the office, minor repairs, refreshing the paint, online CE lessons for yourself and your team, team cross-training, planning your marketing activities for the coming year, etc.
A time like this really emphasizes the importance of families. It’s vital that you ensure your family follows all the recommended physical distancing guidelines applicable to your area. Keep kids busy with engaging activities because they are likely to become increasingly frustrated being separated from school, their usual pastimes, and their friends. Also, just like your team members, any family members whose jobs are affected by the crisis should apply for assistance programs immediately. Furthermore, keep in mind that for many people in your extended family, you may be considered “rich”. You may get requests for financial assistance if the crisis is extended, and you should prepare for how you will respond.
If you look down the road and foresee a significant drop in income from the practice for an extended period, you are going to have to revise your financial strategy for the year. That may include putting off any savings into investments or retirement accounts and prioritizing your spending.
If you are going to get a refund on your taxes for 2019, you should file right away. Otherwise, take advantage of the time given to postpone filing and paying your taxes. You should also be looking at other ways to postpone or delay certain payments. Your mortgage provider and other lenders may allow you to suspend payments temporarily, and you should do that if you feel any financial concern.
It is important to know that everything is going to be fine. There is a lot of uncertainty right now and that’s all you hear about on the news. Remember, as a profession, a nation, and humanity in general, we have incredible resiliency. It may take some time for recovery, but as each day goes by, we will face each challenge one by one.
And, we can lean on each other, and take advantage of what we can learn from others. This is exactly what we are doing at Endo Mastery. Our coaching and Mastery Circle clients are having weekly webinars to review the latest information and share ideas and strategies with each other. Our plan is to come out the other side stronger than ever!
That should be your plan too.