Priorities to drive practice recovery and growth

As your business recovers from the COVID-19 closings, Dr. Ace Goerig says to get ready to embrace a new and active strategic direction.

Dr. Albert (Ace) Goerig discusses embracing critical change in the overall strategic direction of the practice

At the start of the year, no one could have predicted what was coming and how dramatically our lives and practices would be affected. Now, as everyone strives to get the economy back to some kind of normalcy, you are faced with the challenge of navigating your individual recovery. There are a couple of factors working against you:

  • First, general dentistry has been hit harder by the pandemic than endodontic practices. Most endodontic practices stayed to take care of emergencies, while most general dentists were shut down completely. They will be tempted to hold on to whatever patient care they can deliver themselves rather than referring out. There will likely be a bump up in referrals initially due to pent-up demand, but that will subside to a level lower than what you were doing prior to the pandemic.
  • Second, the economy may be on a slow ramp back up, but many people remain unemployed or under-employed during this time. People have a recession mindset; many have exhausted their available credit and lost their dental insurance. For those still with insurance, some employers are going to be reducing benefits as part of their own financial survival
  • Third, many people are still nervous and avoiding situations where they perceive an increased health risk, such as invasive dental procedures. That’s going to result in a suppression of patient flow in referring offices for some time, and GPs have to rebuild patient trust and acceptance for hygiene and non-urgent dental procedures.

For endodontists, this means we may have escaped the pandemic with less initial impact than other dental practitioners, but we will potentially have a more extended recovery period. How quickly you will recover will depend on the strategic interventions you take starting now. It’s no longer “business as usual” by any measure, and this means you have to get yourself and your team focused on what matters right now.

Six crucial recovery priorities

In my view, there are six key priorities that you need to address in your recovery strategy. Obviously, practices that had strong systems in place and were growing prior to the pandemic are going to have an easier time. However, those who went into the pandemic with underlying weaknesses in some areas (for example: scheduling, marketing, team alignment, stagnation or lack of growth, etc.) will have to embrace a more forceful shift in the overall strategic direction of the practice. Here are the key areas of priority:

Team and patient recovery planning

The first priority is getting your own house in order. The coronavirus is going to be with us on an ongoing basis, possibly becoming endemic and seasonal like the flu, even if a vaccine becomes available. It is best to assume our “pandemic” infection control adaptions are permanent until we know otherwise. That means settling on what your infection-control regimen is going to be going forward. Finalize your PPE list and suppliers. Right-size and cross-train your staff to the latest CDC, ADA, OSHA, OSAP, and state guidelines. (It’s a lot to review to educate them.)

Absolutely master your team’s communication skills with patients and the steps you are taking to protect them. Update your website, so patients can check you out in advance and feel confident in you. Get your registration forms online. Rehearse and standardize the protocol for a patient visit from arrival at the door to dismissal at the door. Look at everything from the patient’s perspective, and ensure every member of your team is completely comfortable and natural so patients don’t sense any unease.

Referral recovery planning

The next area of priority is optimizing referrals to the current environment. You need to take steps to reduce the number of nontreatment patients. This not only is a benefit for the patient to avoid an unnecessary visit, but also is vital for your economics since changes in how we can schedule mean every treatment slot is vital to your economic recovery. If ever there was great time to train your referrers, once and for all, to send X-rays for all referred patients, this is the time.

You also need to carefully consider how you are going to manage your sidebook. For example, routinely recalling patients for follow-up might be better handled through a combination of post-visit care calls and more effective post-op patient education with instructions to call if they develop any concerns. Consults, however, are going to remain a priority, and you have to figure out how those fit in your new schedule template. You may need to adjust the number of days per week and hours per day you work to hit your goals.

One area that you should consider is teledentistry. It has the potential to simplify some consults and follow-ups and avoid a patient visit until a treatment need is confirmed (plus it is billable). This may require team training, as well as communicating with referring practices about how teledentistry with better records from the GP is the preferred choice for patient consults at this time.

Practice economics recovery planning

The goal with recovery is to get back up to your pre-pandemic levels of productivity as soon as possible. The first thing you should do is map out a new framework for goals on a week-by-week basis that take you from where you’re at right now until you are back to normal. I think a reasonable time frame should be 3-to-4 months because it will be happening in parallel with referring practices as they ramp up.

In recovery, teams need to be focused and agile on restoring practice productivity and hitting goals. That means, if necessary, staying late on a day if you can complete another case. The reliable patient flow of the past will not return without earning it back one day and one case at a time.

You also need to consider that your income took a nosedive during the pandemic restrictions, while experiencing new higher costs on PPE. You may also have invested in new technologies to make your practice safer such as air purification, UV sterilization, extraoral suction evacuators, etc.. That deficit has to be made up as well, so your plan must extend past “return to normal” to eliminate the deficit from the books. That means (despite all the forces resisting it) that recovery must continue into growth.

Marketing recovery planning

Most endodontists do not do enough strategic marketing to drive true growth. Effective marketing is a planned sequence of ongoing activities that is designed to establish you as the preferred endodontist for as many referring doctors as possible. That means developing closer doctor-to-doctor relationships and team-to-team relationships for existing referrers, as well as outreach to connect with new referrers.

You should be meeting with your marketing coordinator on a weekly basis to plan a communication activity to all your referring doctors. It does not have to be complicated. What matters is that it is regular and positive. For example, you can email every doctor with useful links or something funny or uplifting. In addition, you should have a list of doctors selected each week for individual marketing activities. Researching and preparing these activities should be part of your marketing coordinator’s duties.

Personal economics recovery planning

Endodontics is a incredible path to a life of financial freedom. In fact, when I started Endo Mastery 25 years ago, my goal was to help every endodontist achieve that level of success. It is still our primary goal as endodontic coaches to help doctors grow their practices and incomes, so they have a life of abundance.

Whether you have that level of abundance or not though, the loss of practice revenue due to the pandemic has a ripple effect into your personal economics (and don’t forget the turmoil in the capital markets too). As part of your practice recovery strategy, you also need to create a parallel personal economic strategy, especially if you’ve taken a short-term hiatus from saving due to the loss of income. You need a month-by-month plan on getting your personal economics back into alignment with your long-term goals. That should include developing a recovery savings strategy, a family income strategy, and ensuring you have enough of an economic buffer in reserve for the reinvestments and contingencies you may need to stimulate practice growth and smooth out any future bumps in the road.

Productivity recovery and growth planning

Growth is possible in any market when you are intentional and engaged with the opportunities that exist. As I mentioned, your practice economics plan should have a week-by-week strategy to recover your former productivity levels, and then continue growing to recover your income deficit. This is absolutely possible even in this market because many endodontists have a routine that is far from optimized for growth.

The average Endo Mastery client, prior to beginning practice coaching, had over 2 hours a day of lost clinical time. That’s the equivalent of 2½ months of lost time every year for a practice working 4 days per week and 48 weeks per year. It’s as though they are self-imposing the effects of a pandemic on themselves every year. Ultimately, closing the gaps on these opportunities is what will drive you from recovery into growth. Being prepared to question what you are doing now, to look at your existing systems and processes objectively, and leading your team to adopt an innovation mindset is essential.

Moving forward with new choices

Many of your colleagues are working on these same issues, and there are plenty of resources available from many sources to assist you. The trick is pulling it all together in the right combination. At Endo Mastery, we’re available to support you too. In September, we have a Recovery Team Summit to get the team back in focus with new goals and leadership for recovery growth. In addition, we’ve also launched a streamlined and prioritized Recovery Coaching solution that gives you customized professional guidance and implementation from an Endo Mastery coach to achieve the objectives discussed in this article. We’re happy to talk to you about any of these options.

In the meantime, this is not the time to sit and wait for the slow tide of recovery to lift you passively. It’s the active strategies you implement now that will determine whether recovery is a 6-month success story for you, or 2-plus years in a drawn-out battle for every inch of ground you regain. I believe, with the right strategies and support, every endodontic practice can emerge from this crisis quickly, stronger, and more profitable than they ever were before.

For more information, visit, email, or call 1-800-482-7563.

Taking a leadership role when re-formulating your strategic direction can help your team to accept and implement your vision. Dr. Ace Goerig offers his guidance in his article, “Take the lead, and create your dream practice,” here:

Albert (Ace) Goerig, DDS, MS, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics and a sought-after speaker who has lectured extensively in the field of endodontics and practice success throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad. He is the author of more than 60 published articles and a contributing author to numerous endodontic textbooks. Dr. Goerig has a private endodontic practice in Olympia, Washington in the top 1% nationwide for practice profitability. He has almost 25 years of experience as an educator and practice coach to nearly 1,000 endodontists.

Disclosure: Dr. Goerig is owner and co-founder of Endo Mastery.

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