In the conclusion of his three-part series, Chris Baker looks at what the future may have in store for dentistry in Ireland.
What will dentistry in Ireland look like at the end of 2021 – or even 2030? Predicting the future is a mug’s game, however, we do know that the world will be different.
How different is difficult to say, but I am confident that COVID-19 has led to changes that won’t be reversed and set in motion new concepts and ideas that will now come to the fore.
I will kick off with a bold prediction. In 2030, dentistry in Ireland will be more expensive, involve fewer visits and be much more patient focused.
Informed consent is, of course, already with us. However, the emphasis will shift even further towards joint treatment planning and the patient weighing up all the options and then deciding upon what works best for them.
Dentistry was changing anyway and COVID-19 has just pushed some of those changes along more quickly.
Ways it will be better
As we discussed in the last article, COVID-19 has meant that today’s patient journey is much better defined and patients know what to expect and when. After the pandemic, we need to learn these lessons and build them into our plans.
Call patients the day before their appointment rather than text. Have you noticed how you fail-to-attends has gone through the floor? There’s a reason for that – a text is from any corporate entity – a phone call from receptionist Aoife looking forward to seeing you tomorrow is a relationship.
You have had to run to time and patients love that (don’t you find it less stressful too even if you see a few less people every day?).
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Some statistics: 94% of Gen-Z think companies should address critical issues. What’s more, 55% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products or services from companies that have dedicated social impact plans. And 67% of respondents prefer to work for socially inclined companies.
CSR is here to stay and should be an important part of the way your practice functions on a daily basis. CSR is all about the decisions a business makes in how it acts towards its people, its environment and its community. Our current situation means this view will only deepen.
The place of the practice will change in what is likely be a hugely different post-COVID-19 environment. With luck, we will be living in a society that has been reminded of its humanity and interdependence.
Improved customer service
At the risk of being distasteful, what is likely to be a prolonged recession – particularly in the hospitality sector, will mean that there is an opportunity to employ front of house staff who fundamentally ‘get’ customer care and your patients will thank you for it.
If you have reception staff who are stand-offish, abrupt and frighten patients, you need to get rid – now.
Ways it will be worse
Consumers will expect an elongation of the day and will want to see you when it suits them. And, with the proliferation of video consultations, you will want to see them outside of your core clinical hours. I say worse but with management of your and the team’s days, it can be manageable.
It’s going to be a biggie. 1930s levels? Maybe, and that is going to affect how many people can spend their hard-earned money on dental care. Which is why getting the three items above is so important.
Less government support
Difficult decisions will have to be made in regard to how taxes are spent, and I suspect dentistry will not be near the top of the list. You need to be getting across to your patients and potential patients the benefits of visiting you now! If you can convince them to join your plan, then so much the better.
We must remember too that there will be a more nervous population out there. They will need reassurance – you will need to up your communication game across the board including phone, email and social media to reach and engage with both existing patients and those that you wish to target.
There is no doubt that the next few years will be difficult and we could be in for a rough ride. However, as Microsoft, General Electric and many others prove, recessions can also be a fertile environment for growth. Don’t be timid – grasp the opportunity and you might surprise yourself.
Find part one of this article here, and part two here.
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