In March 2020, as coronavirus cases grew rapidly, it was advised that routine non-essential oral health care be delayed until there had been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates. At that time, with the sweep of regulatory pens across the nation and world, what followed was an almost complete global shutdown of most sectors of our society.
While these important measures have been central to mitigating the spread of the virus, we have learned that putting needed health care on hold creates entirely new struggles and strain on public health and quality of life of society.
The swift and massive shock of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdown measures to contain it have touched every member of our society in one way or another. Some have caught COVID-19 and survived the ordeal. Many families have lost loved ones who died alone while isolated in quarantine. There has been an abrupt restriction and shift in global travel which greatly impacted leisure travelers as well as causing limited consumer access to many goods and services. People are also much more aware of the carbon footprint and effect that pre-pandemic routine was having on our environment and all life within it.
The most socially palpable impact has undoubtably come from the shutdown on our global economy and financial livelihoods. The pandemic has changed job markets almost overnight. The outbreak seriously impacted employment and job security. Most businesses have lost significant amounts of revenue. Many have gone out of business. Employees have been laid off, lost jobs, or experienced reduced hours and wages. Temporary government financial assistance programs are reaching their endpoint.
It’s now clear the outbreak may have long-lasting, game-changing ramifications on many businesses and professions that fail to pivot and/or reinvent themselves. It is also becoming clear that no society can safeguard public health for extended periods of time at the cost of its economic health. To preserve the health of our society, we must also preserve the health of our economy, as they are inextricably woven.
A look at every business sector and facet of life reveals that the days of “business as usual” are gone. In the rush to return to normal in dentistry, we now need to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to. Change is now the new normal. All of us have had to embrace new standard operating procedures in clinical practice: PPE’s, Pre-Screening Measures, Air Quality technology, fallow time scheduling considerations, and physical distancing barriers, to name a few. However, embracing these changes alone won’t position our profession for success in the future. We are now living in a much more health-conscious world that is also much more sensitive to cross contamination and infection control measures. We must adapt our focus and central messaging to meet the needs of this changing world. In light of this, we have an opportunity to make our patients even more aware of the bi-directional relationship between a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
Much research has shown that a preferred level of oral health can improve a person’s resistance to disease as well as healing and recovery from disease. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to strategically regroup with our team in an effort to communicate clearer messages that inspire our patients to engage in more robust wellness-centered healthcare relationships with our practice.
One thing is certain. No matter how disruptive things have been, history has shown us time and time again that when significant events occur that impact our world on a broad scale, society has always persevered and recovered. In this significant time of change, perhaps we should take a moment to count our blessings by reflecting on what we have learned from everything that has happened. It is undeniable that each of us now has a much greater appreciation for the value of free time, money, and social connections, as well as a higher appreciation for our physical health and emotional wellbeing. We have also learned how fragile each of these can be if we don’t dedicate proper time and attention to nurturing them as a lifestyle.
In our constant pursuit of clinical excellence and professional growth, we have also been reminded that beyond all the new technologies, clinical techniques, and treatment modalities exists the important life of the people we serve that are attached to the teeth we treat each day.
Former president of Starbucks International Howard Behar explained it perfectly in his best-selling book It’s Not About the Coffee, when he suggested that “Starbucks is not in the coffee business serving people, we are in the people business serving coffee. Which means that without people, we have nothing; but with people we have something even bigger than coffee.”
The same holds true for our amazing profession of dentistry. We have an opportunity to elevate the functioning of our practices by peppering an elevated service-oriented, people-centered, solution-driven approach into every aspect of what we do on a day-to-day basis. When customers turn into people, a deeper level of patient care and connection emerges. This humanity-based focus empowers us to flourish at levels that are simply not possible if patients are merely being processed through a routine generic series of transaction steps. It’s all about the interaction; that’s when the magic happens. That’s when satisfied customers will rise to become highly committed, raving fans for your practice.
Society is making history right now, and every practice is part of that history. The sacrifices our society has made and how we collectively rise and thrive as a profession and community will be remembered, studied, and praised by future generations. If 2020 was the year of COVID19, then 2022 will be the year of humanity and compassion. We’ve become much more aware of who we love, what we are passionate about, what’s most important in life, and what we are grateful for. In our pursuit of clinical excellence and optimal patient care, we have an opportunity to count our daily blessings by reminding ourselves as a profession that service to others is the rent we pay for our room on this earth.
Peter Barry is Founder of “Practice Mastery,” a Team Development Coaching company that serves the growth and development needs of your practice. He provides customized group and one-on-one “Success Coaching” to dental professionals and industry companies across the country.
FMI: IG @peterbarrycoach, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.practicemastery.com, or 416.568.5456.