Level 4 - The Long Haul - and what to do to protect your Dental Plan numbers from falling
The Prime Minister will address the nation later today to repeat what we already know from the media - that we are moving to Level 4, that the Second Wave is upon us and (probably) that we should be thankful for their decision to avoid a complete 2-week lockdown as a "circuit breaker".
Mind you, nothing is certain in the short term and this post may become inaccurate as the days and weeks evolve.
Yesterday, as I walked the dogs at 17:00 on a balmy September evening, the citizens of Hale, Cheshire had clearly decided to celebrate Level 4 by taking their dinner al fresco outside the many bars and restaurants with which we are blessed.
Some will argue that these people are citizens exercising their right to assemble within guidelines (bearing in mind that we are in Trafford, which has been subject to special measures for weeks).
Others (me included) have preferred to avoid public places and the associated risks.
The Covid numbers speak for themselves.
I noted the email from FMC yesterday, pushing their regional conferences back in the calendar to March 2021 (even that may be optimistic).
I wonder what the next steps will be from the organisers of The Showcase and The Dentistry Show?
We are now in this for the long haul and we are talking years, not months.
I have no plans to travel in the foreseeable future. Tomorrow I was due to visit my first practice since 16th March (and the only booking in my calendar for the rest of this year). The trip was cancelled a few days ago, after one of their team members tested positive.
There is now not one single journey in my future calendar and I'm busy refining and improving my virtual support for the community.
You, of course, have to create environments in which patients feel safe to visit, even as your workflow is adapting to Minimal Attendance Dentistry.
One of the early manifestations of Second Wave Blues that I'm beginning to see is a small but significant number of dental plan patients cancelling their direct debits.
After 6 months of loyalty that has warmed the hearts of many practice owners, there are signs that the uncertainty around both Covid-19 and the economy might be motivating people to review their personal finances and create categories of essential and non-essential products and services.
May I further observe (and repackage one of my own favourite sayings) that "all plan cancellations occur in the absence of a good conversation"?
It is very important right now that your communication to patients through letter, email, social media posting or newsletter reminds them of the benefits of regular attendance and long term care.
Don't make assumptions - particularly one that your patients know how lucky they are to have you.
We have rewritten all of our suggested patient communication material in this light - and shared that with our clients last Friday.
I have been at the forefront of those calling for renewed efforts in marketing, to ensure a steady flow of new patients when the backlog has been dealt with.
I now add to my clients' task lists a strong suggestion that they campaign on the benefits of their existing dental plan. No doubt the savvy Plan Provider will do the same.