Everything Dental Blog April 2020

A Covid-19 Commentary 

By Jack Abrams

Covid is a catalyst and accelerant! The intensity of the Covid-19 crisis has exposed how unprepared we are in the global war against pathogens and our response to global pandemics. The implications are far reaching and will require an in-depth examination on America’s readiness to handle epidemics and how social demographics, affects ones access to quality healthcare. Most of us in New York are managing stay at home recommendations as we watch other states experiment with herd immunity or a hybrid version of the White House’s Gating Criteria for reopening America.

Businesses, particularly dental facilities, are divided regarding re-open strategies. Some dentists and DSO’s have been vocal about their responsibility to serve the public during times of healthcare crisis. They are opposed to the government’s restrictions on dentistry and the limited operational guidelines during Covid-19. Others, especially those in highly afflicted regions, are conflicted. They need to open in order to protect their business from financial ruin, but are concerned about their health and the health of team members. In addition to the emotional and safety concerns, all dentists are struggling to obtain the correct PPE and to replenish their inventories. 

Americans are grateful for the first responder’s who risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones, to take care of and protect us. Many of these first responders, just months ago, were not called essential workers. It’s startling how our perspective has changed and I am glad we can all agree, ‘no one is non-essential’. 

Our behavior and intimacy has been changed by this virus crisis. Social distancing has created a six foot boundary. High fives, chest bumps, hugs and handshakes are no longer appropriate and we have become addicted to our phones and computers during this extended work from home period. I’ve learned to appreciate collaborating with co-workers or discussing a manufacturer’s value proposition on a video conference. Seeing the others nonverbal ques enhances the dialogue and provides me with valuable feedback about their level of engagement and interest. It also allows us to share documents. It’s much more efficient, effective and personal than a phone call. I believe video conferencing will only become more ubiquitous over the next few years.

Another glaring development of the Covid crisis is the indisputable division between the haves and the have nots and those who live in urban and rural areas. While the virus is all-pervasive in the bigger cities, it’s anomalous in the rural communities resulting in different opinions about re-starting the economy. We’ve learned that America must develop a better plan for how we care for our elderly and those with pre-existing illness. We have learned to embrace technology for remote learning and working from home and we’ve discovered where the technology works and where it is deficient. 

 This will not be our last war against a virus or biological threat. We will learn from this experience and my hope is that we will embrace our diversity, humanity and the worth of our neighbors going forward. While celebrities, businesses people and the government say “we are all in this together”, the facts and sacrifices of first responders and healthcare professionals suggest otherwise. I doubt that those furloughed or displaced would agree that we are all in this together.

Over the next few months, the unemployed numbers will decline. Businesses will start to open and we will begin the hard work of reestablishing our businesses and connecting with customers. Dentistry, is arguably one of the more complex and challenging businesses to reignite because we require an abundance of PPE and are now tasked with aerosol containment and management. 

The title of this article is appropriate for all businesses especially dentistry. In the next year or two, our dental community will grow in relevance. There will be greater acceptance of the Oral/ Systemic link. Offices will move towards a digital workflow model improving outcomes and shortening procedure and recovery times. Dentists will continue to embrace 3D imaging for better diagnosis, Implant dentistry, and expanded functionality. 

Below is a formula I used for almost thirty years before I made a recommendation to buy a dental material or piece of equipment. This formula has served my clients well.

  • Will the product or equipment improve your clinical dentistry? 
  • Will it speed up the procedure time or the patient’s recovery time? 
  • Will it make or save you money?
  • Will it enhance your reputation or the offices image?

Today, I am adding two more question to this vetting process. 

  • Will this purchase get me in compliance?
  • Will it make my patients feel more comfortable visiting my office? 

As we approach the summer months, more and more dental offices will open to see patients for preventive, restorative and elective procedures. I suspect we will be at 60-80% of Pre-Covid activity within the next 12-18 months providing we don’t have a major Covid-19 outbreak in the fall — this is strictly my own personal opinion and does not in any way represent Henry Schein‘s point of view.  

 A slow recovery will require us to do more with less and will force us to improve our performance levels. Dentists must treatment plan more effectively. They must accomplish more dentistry in one visit rather than asking the patient to return for a second appointment. This will allow the dentist to see less patients and create comparable revenue. Employees will have the burden of being positive and highly energized when they are working with less support because team members may have been furloughed or displaced earlier. It is critical that each transaction, and every customer encounter be pleasant, efficient and meet or exceed the customers’ expectations. The fragility of operating a small business or dental office after such a long hiatus will be challenging, however, I am optimistic that we will bounce back and we’ll be better than ever. 

Henry Schein Dental has created dozens of great resources for continuing education, Covid compliance and back to work strategies. I encourage everyone to visit https://www.henryschein.com/us-en/corporate/coronavirus-resource-center.aspx.                              

There are valuable tips to help you and your team get started and web links to connect you with virtually every regulatory agency. 

These are unprecedented times and the only constant has been uncertainty. For those of us that are worried about the future and what it may look like, you are not alone. Each and everyone one of us must wrestle with the emotional distress, financial burden and apprehension to begin the long process of rebuilding our businesses. This is one of those moments in time, when the most committed will survive and thrive. Do not give a competitive advantage to your competition by procrastinating or resisting change. Take a risk and invest in your future now. 

Let’s win the future one day at a time.

Sincerely,

Jack Abrams