The recession has changed the way patients pursue dental health care. If practices are to survive during this period of economic uncertainty, doctors must instigate changes and adapt to the new habits of their patients. Simply waiting for the economy to improve is not enough.
Knowing exactly how the new economy has affected dentistry is the first step to taking proactive measures to countering it.
Consider the following effects of the economic downturn:
- Fewer new patients. Many inactive dental patients have simply stopped seeking a dentist. Dental care may fall under discretionary spending for this demographic, and reaching them will be difficult. Rather than abandon this group of potential patients, alter the way you approach them.
- Fewer patients are pursuing elective treatment. To overcome the declining number of patients who accept elective treatment, train your team to better present treatment options. Polish your own skills and learn to thoroughly explain the benefits of treatment options as a team.
- Dentists must Market more than ever. The necessity for marketing has never been more evident. Dentists are increasing marketing efforts to compensate for the reduction in new patients.
- Lower household incomes are might require alternative payment options. For households making less money, dental practices should consider offering flexible payment terms or third-party financing to retain patients. The more flexible the payment options, the more likely a patient will be to accept treatment.
- Dentists are retiring later. With production levels down, many dentists are retiring later. To combat this trend, dentists should take the above steps to maximize production and avert the need to work well into retirement years. Working with an experienced financial advisor is important to chart a course for retirement.
Accepting that the economy is soft with little indication for dramatic improvement also means accepting that patient behavior has changed. Doctors must be proactive. Making changes now can reduce the number of years between today and retirement.