By The McGill Advisory
Many patients are flush with cash from federal and state COVID-19 economic stimulus payments. Americans saved over $1.4 trillion in 2020, almost twice as much as in the prior year, due to stimulus payments and decreased spending. And that was prior to the December 2020 federal aid package that sent another $600 per person in stimulus checks, and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that recently added another $1,400 per person in direct payments. Research shows most of these funds have been used to pay down debt or increase savings.
With vaccinations ramping up and restrictions eased, a major boost in consumer spending is just around the corner. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 6% during 2021, the fastest expansion since 1984. Elective surgery and other dental procedures are predicted to come back strong in the second half of this year as patients feel more comfortable returning to your office.
Emphasize Needed Services
In essence, marketing is simply determining your patients’ needs and then meeting them. Unfortunately, most practices haven’t done a good job of educating patients about their increased dental needs resulting from the pandemic. Our recent survey revealed that only 22% of responding practices had modified their marketing efforts to do so, while 78% had not.
Research shows the pandemic has dramatically increased your patients’ dental needs as follows:
- 59% increase in teeth grinding and clenching.
- 53% increase in chipped and cracked teeth.
- 53% increase in TMJ symptoms (including headaches and jaw pain).
- 30% increase in gum disease, which can lead to potential tooth loss as well as increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and serious COVID-19 complications.
- 26% increase in tooth decay and cavities.
Since you’re treating patients every day with these symptoms, it’s highly likely those who haven’t yet returned have even greater dental problems. So, it’s important to communicate these potential problems, as well as treatment previously recommended, so current and potential patients who have not yet returned to your office understand the negative consequences to their health if they don’t receive treatment. You should send an email or letter to each patient explaining this, inviting them back into your practice, and emphasizing that your caring team is ready to take care of their dental needs. This communication should emphasize how delaying dental treatment now can result in more serious and expensive dental and other health problems later on.
Be sure to include a staff member’s name and phone number to contact to schedule their appointment. This staff member should also be designated to follow up with those that don’t respond, at least every 6 months or so.
Promote Your Vaccination Status
We also asked members if they had modified their marketing efforts to emphasize their commitment to vaccinate the doctor and staff to increase patient safety. Only 31% of practices had done so, while 69% had not.
ADA research indicates that 66% of dentists have been receiving questions from patients regarding vaccinations. Furthermore, 64% of hesitant patients who have not yet returned would do so if they knew the doctor and staff had been vaccinated.
On March 22, 2021, the White House announced it had added dentists and dental students to the list of healthcare professionals who can now administer COVID-19 vaccines. This federal approval overrides the need for state-by-state legislation authorizing dentists to administer the vaccine. 69% of Americans are now willing to get vaccinated, up from 60% in November. More importantly, 65% of those patients are willing to get vaccinated in your office, if vaccinations are available.
Thus, it’s critically important to let your patients know about your team’s vaccination status (without violating employee privacy, of course), as well as the opportunity for them to be vaccinated in your office should you decide to provide that option. One doctor commented: “I did a mass email about me and my team getting vaccinated and posted that information with photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages. I’ll be mailing out a personal letter explaining my vaccination experience, which I’ll also post on our website.” Another doctor commented: “Each of our staff members wears a button stating ‘COVID-19 vaccine received’ and we post a sign on the door stating the doctor and all employees have been vaccinated.”
The above article was reprinted with permission from The McGill Advisory, a monthly newsletter with online resources devoted to tax, financial planning, investments, and practice management matters exclusively for dentists and specialists, published by John K. McGill & Company, Inc. (a member of The McGill & Hill Group LLC). Originally published in The McGill Advisory, April 2021. Visit www.mcgilladvisory.com or call 888.249.7537 for further information.