Light on the horizon: A plan of action for Vermont dental offices until more patients receive COVID-19 vaccine

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by Dan Croft, Healthcare Solutions Group Leader, TD Bank
Phil Daniels, Market President, Vermont, TD Bank
Andrew Ramsdell, Healthcare Specialist, Business Development Officer, TD Bank

Over the past year, dental offices have been forced to close due to pandemic restrictions and then slowly reopened based on local and state government guidelines. Now, however, there is light on the horizon with the acceleration of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination. Indeed, according to the Vermont Department of Health36.9% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 116,000 people are fully immunized. Additionally, the Biden administration has announced that every adult in the United States will be eligible for a vaccination no later than May 1, which should help improve that progress.

With this in mind, it appears that in the coming months, dental offices will be able to fully resume their normal activities. Indeed, according to Delta Dental March Survey, 93% of Americans plan to see the dentist in 2021. This is expected to result in an influx of funds for those who are struggling with cash flow due to patients’ fear of coming in for routine care and the need for longer and longer care. more spaced. appointment to allow for proper health and safety protocol, which has led many practices to implement longer hours and pay staff overtime in order to see the same patient load as before COVID.

With such good news on the horizon, there are a few considerations dental practices need to keep in mind to remain profitable until they are able to fully recoup revenue and staff levels. before COVID.

  • Review your active patient list and reschedule expired hygiene appointments for the spring and summer months: Many patients have not been to the dentist in the past year due to fear of contracting COVID-19, but have expressed an interest in doing so once they are fully immunized.

As the economy rebounds, more people who are expected to find jobs and receive the COVID vaccine will return to their dental offices because they will no longer have the same health issues and have dental insurance and disposable income to use. Additionally, during the pandemic, stress-related dental issues such as teeth grinding, cracked teeth, and jaw pain were exacerbated and practices can expect to schedule more procedures for patients returning to the hospital. office for cleaning and need additional dental work due to stress. related conditions.

Due to this expected increase in dental visits, practices should consider scheduling appointments, especially for patient recalls, as these regular check-ups will allow dentists to identify other oral problems that have not occurred. not treated during the pandemic. This could lead to a need for additional procedures in the summer and fall, resulting in more typical – or higher – income levels before the pandemic. Dentists should review their active patient lists to identify patients who have not made an appointment or who have made and canceled a hygiene appointment in the past year and contact them to determine their availability. for a future meeting. During these conversations, staff should reinforce the practice’s COVID-19 safety protocol and assure patients that these standards will remain in place even after the population is widely vaccinated.

  • Continue to train staff: Many practices have lost staff due to fear of being in the office during COVID-19 or due to competing responsibilities for caring for children or the elderly. Specifically, many practices have fewer hygienists, who typically produce more than 20% of the company’s turnover, which creates a large gap in production. Rural areas of the state have been hit hardest by the need to recruit and replace hygienists who have not returned to the office due to risk factors for COVID-19. Fortunately, many practices have been able to train staff and extend working hours to compensate for these labor shortages. However, it also led to the need to pay employees overtime in order to handle the same load of patients.

Practices should continue to train employees who can work longer hours in the short term. Once more patients are immune to COVID-19, practices can return to normal operations and potentially reduce overtime hours and labor costs, while expanding the dental team as needed, especially with many hygienists who return to work to cope with the expected return wave in summer and fall. the patients.

  • Take advantage of financial assistance programs: Programs like the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have helped many businesses, including dental offices, cover large expenses like payroll and rent or mortgage interest, and some many dental offices applied for a second PPP loan in the last cycle. loan. While dentists may soon expect a full appointment schedule, they can still consider taking advantage of this funding, or additional funding sources, such as traditional loans and lines of credit, for financial relief up to the point. ‘that they are able to do so. Practices should document their use of PPP funds to determine if they qualify for a full discount, essentially turning the loan into a grant. PPP loans can be fully discounted if, during the 8-24 week period of loan disbursement, employee and compensation levels are maintained and the loan proceeds are spent on qualifying expenses. , including at least 60% of the proceeds of the payroll loan and related expenses. fees and taxes.

Although vaccine distribution is improving, it may still be several months before more patients feel comfortable returning to the practice. In the meantime, dentists should take these strategic steps to stay profitable and prepare for the expected influx of patients.

If you want to know more, go to: https://www.td.com/us/en/small-business/healthcare-practice-solution/ or contact Phil Daniels at 802-734-6338.

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