Look to future to create ‘new normal’
It is difficult to say what the lessons will be from the coronavirus pandemic since there are still months or more to experience. While some of us would pay a handsome price for a crystal ball these days, there are hints beginning to surface:
- Look for significant government, industry-specific or social pressure to continue equipment investment and procedures that mitigate infection spread. These interventions likely will vary by location and by infection spikes, but going forward, government from federal on down are likely to play an even bigger role in how we all behave, work and operate.
- The federal government will continue to play an outsized economic role as it considers economic packages to aid the country. The U.S. Federal Reserve cut its interest rates twice, and Congress – with unprecedented speed – passed aid and rescue/stimulus packages to hold up businesses and workers. As these initial rounds of aid packages expire in the coming weeks, and as the threat of surges and a “second wave” of the virus loom, it seems likely Congress will respond with more aid.
- There will be a lasting impact on how business is conducted. “Virtual” meetings and “contact-free” transactions were not much on anyone’s radar in January but are ubiquitous in today’s pandemic reality. For dentistry – a person-to-person industry – the changes take the form of pre-appointment phone screenings and payment processing. These may well take hold permanently.
- While dentistry obviously can’t be practiced entirely “virtually,” more and more appointments may comfortably move online. Insurers have eased acceptance of teledentistry. Patients with relatively minor dental issues or who are reluctant to visit a dentist until a vaccine is available may prefer a visual, “virtual” assessment visit.
A recent Forbes article ventured, “It is becoming possible to imagine a world of business … in which human contact is minimized,” and predicted businesses may be looking at “reallocating” resources to account for this shift.
With a pandemic that likely will exceed the disruption of the Great Recession of 2008-09, businesses – large and small – are looking to make wholesale changes rather than piecemeal tweaks to how they operate. Start with this COVID-19 wake-up call for dental practices: an emergency plan is not a “nice to have” but absolutely essential.
Whatever lies ahead, dentistry will have to look ahead, not to the past, in constructing its new normal.
CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.
Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, Assistant Director of Communications for the Chicago Dental Society.
Photo by Lorado / istockphoto.com
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