Factors That Impacted Dental Practices in 2021

Inhibitors or accelerants to progress

We often think of the end of the year as a time to reflect and consider the events that occurred, the goals achieved or missed, and measure progress along the path toward personal and professional growth.

2021 brought a year of prosperity for many dental practices, which offered much needed peace of mind after the adversity of 2020 and the adjustment to its repercussions.

Unfortunately, some practices did not make the full recovery. As we look back at this year, here are a few common themes that stood out and played a general role in practice growth or lack thereof.

Adapting to Change

This year was all about adaptability. Rather than revert to the ‘way things have always been done’, successful practices knew they needed to create their new normal and keep their business going through the continuous unstable times.

“Adaptability showed that practices could succeed post-COVID and during COVID, or risk failure,” NDP managing partner Christy Ratcliff said. “If they couldn’t adapt to the new normal and were stuck in their ways, they just didn’t move forward and couldn’t recover from what happened.”

Dental professionals had no other choice but to figure out solutions and be creative. This may have involved eliminating the use of the waiting room and incorporating text message alerts or finding a way to see emergency patients while following safety protocols. For the ones who adapted to the adversity, they now know what works and what doesn’t. These practices were able to use this experience to their advantage, and they are now better prepared for future life events.

Remote Work

The ability to work from home appears to be here for the long haul, with many businesses adopting a remote work structure in some capacity. Although most dental services cannot be completed through tele-visits or video chats, the remote work movement has impacted patient behavior.

There are fewer missed appointments, fewer no-shows. This is because patients aren’t getting stuck at the office. They now have more flexibility to attend their appointments and use the time to take care of themselves.

Additionally, some practices have taken the opportunity to incorporate a work-from-home policy for certain employees such as receptionists or billing personnel. Practices with the right technology are making it work and as a result, are becoming more favorable places to work. 

Remote work may not be a program that practices can fully implement for their employees, but it offers new opportunities within the dental industry for those who seize it.

Staffing Challenges

We are in the middle of a labor shortage where there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. Amidst a changing workforce, employees are in demand, and companies are in fierce competition for them. We’ve all felt it.

Across all positions, from associate doctors to assistants and hygienists, it’s important for practices to retain quality talent by showing appreciation and operating with empathy. This may include offering competitive salaries, being creative with benefits and incentives, or creating a balanced work-life environment.

In NDP affiliate Cain Watters & Associates’ recent blog, CEO of CEDR HR Solutions Paul Edwards reminds, “Practices that operate with empathy and understanding tend to keep their good employees. They also have an advantage in hiring because your staff will be talking, either in the practice or outside of it.”

Practice owners should start by creating and implementing a well-defined purpose, vision and core values for the practice. Involving the staff in the creation of these values and offering clear communication will increase the chances of the team adopting and truly living through them.

With a clearly defined goal you can cultivate a team who truly cares about their work and their patients. Copious amounts of training may help employees improve their technical skills, but a clearly defined purpose coupled with those skills can have a larger positive impact on the team as a whole.

Life-Altering Events

Many people wonder: What if practice closures were to happen all over again? The truth of the matter is, life-altering events are going to happen. Adversity comes in many forms, from disability, a death in the family or natural disasters at any point in time. While it’s vital to learn from hardship, dental professionals shouldn’t be hesitant of new opportunities. The dream of buying-in or starting-up a practice, doesn’t have to be delayed because of it.

A successful path is not always a smooth one. How people react and respond to unforeseen events determines their success. Mostly everyone has discovered learning points after living through the pandemic. It’s now a matter of taking those lessons and considering ways to increase profitability in order to set yourself up for the next significant event.

NDP diligently prepares clients to navigate the buying or selling journey through the bumps in the road and the challenges that arise. Contact a member of our team today.