There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the current pandemic has had many negative impacts on dentistry. As discussed last month, revenue has been down while costs are up. Despite the many hurdles you have had to face, we would also like to explore the potential opportunities that have emerged during the last year.
One of the largest impacts of COVID, according to dentists, has been the increased need and cost of PPE which is anticipated to continue into 2021. However, 18 per cent of dentists agree PPE management has been a new skill they have been able to learn. Additionally, over 50 per cent of dentists believe enhanced PPE has decreased levels of concern at their practice. Although there is the additional cost and extra time needed for donning and doffing, know that the added PPE and additional protocols have been worth it to provide safety for your patients and staff.
An interesting thing to note is most dentists have not even felt the need to add a COVID fee onto their billing, as our data shows only 13 per cent of dentists have implemented a COVID fee. Of these dentists, most do not intend to keep it permanent. Very few virus outbreaks have been linked to dental offices, proving how important these additional PPE measures have been.
A heavier focus on IPAC protocols has also been an impact for dentists this year. 52 per cent of dentists agreed that the previous IPAC requirements prepared them for this crisis; however, that left nearly half of dentists feeling unprepared. In fact, infection control was the number one skill learned most by dentists due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has allowed higher awareness for infection control and encouraged many dentists to review the IPAC standards with their team to ensure everyone is properly trained. 21 per cent of dentists were not previously aware of what IPAC stood for, which should certainly not be the case anymore.
Another opportunity provided by the pandemic was the chance to improve your practice management skills which over ¼ of dentists agreed with. As an example, during the lockdown in March, there were many free CE courses available and much more free time to participate and learn about new skills or software. Many dentists also took the time to update their office manuals on topics regarding team members and employment contracts. This crisis forced many practice owners to reflect on their practice’s operations and make the necessary changes needed to have a smoother run practice.
A final opportunity to think about is the implementation of teledentistry in so many practices. The majority of dentists have found teledentistry successful and nearly half of them plan on continuing to use it post-COVID. This is a new way to communicate with patients that presents the opportunity to provide excellent care for them before they visit the office including consultations, pre-visit screenings and more.
As seen in the print issue of Oral Health March 2021