Last spring’s COVID 19–related shutdowns caused problems for group dental practices around the country. Six months later, practice leaders are doing their best to adjust to the demands of pandemic-era rules and regulations while they work through the backlog of rescheduled restorative work.
In this busy and confusing time, you may be surprised to know that a holdover from the shutdown period is lurking just below the surface. It may feel like you’re close to getting back to normal now, but in a few short days or weeks, your organization could suffer a potentially devastating drop-off in business.
How devastating? Consider the data from the following chart:
See the plunging “2020 Scheduled Appointments” projection and the corresponding “2020 Projected Fall Gap” region? These are the major, red-alert news items that inspired RevenueWell to commission its Fall Gap research report. The report breaks down three years worth of business data from more than 7,500 dental practices around the country and concludes that it’s possible to project as much as a 40% reduction in appointments for the months of October and November.
That is the “Fall Gap.”
It’s easy enough to understand what happened last spring: a worldwide pandemic event caused dental practices to close their doors for three months, which is why 2020 scheduled appointments dropped to almost 17%* of their 2019 and 2018 levels.
What’s going to happen this Fall isn’t that complicated either. It’s just gone unnoticed by an alarming number of practices …but it isn’t complicated. Because so many appointments got canceled in March, April, and May, patients were never provided with point-of-care appointment booking opportunities for their next visits in September, October, and November. That means patients don’t have appointments on the books and won’t be coming in without an emergency or direct intervention.
You may be wondering, what about the practices that seem like they’re mostly back to normal? There’s an explanation. Those practices that look and feel busy now are likely just catching up with the backlog of restorative work that had to be postponed during the shutdown. This is the work from patients whose treatment plans had been approved back in February and January and even into December 2019. Once these seemingly busy and back to normal practices work through their backlogs, they’re going to need those routine hygiene appointments that should have been scheduled six months out back in March, April, and May.
If those appointments aren’t there, it’s a problem. An urgent problem. Pre-scheduled hygiene appointments provide opportunities to diagnose much more lucrative restorative work. If practices have empty appointment slots—and if those appointment slots remain unfilled—a long chain reaction of business problems could ensue.
The chain starts with the Fall Gap disconnect and the fact that most dental practices are completely unaware of the possible danger they’re in, but it also extends and compounds through realities like reduced staff levels and new rules and regulations and different patient behaviors in the new pandemic era.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to change course.
To set things straight, practices are going to have to fill in their Fall Gaps as quickly as possible. That process will require aggressive patient outreach and communication. Of course, once patients are back in the examination chair, practices will have work extra hard to increase treatment acceptance rates too.
If you want to learn more about this Fall Gap phenomena—including how to determine if your practices are in danger—you’ll want to download a copy of The Fall Gap: The Unexpected Impacts of COVID-19 and How to Plan for Them. This original research report shows how much of the Fall Gap problem is perceived and understood by dental practices around the country and outlines the steps practices should follow in order to course correct and protect their businesses.
* Data sourced from a comparison of proprietary “created appointments” data from more than 7,500 RevenueWell customers in years 2020, 2019, and 2018.
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