It seems like it has been forever since we could turn on the news and see anything remotely positive. All we have heard about for the last couple of years has been the pandemic, supply shortages, skyrocketing home prices, Russia invading Ukraine, more supply shortages and now…inflation like we have not seen in decades!
And this level of inflation is not fun! To try to fight it, we have already seen rate increases from our central bank with promises of more to come. That means the cost of borrowing money –something that has felt like it was next to nothing for years – is on the rise.
How will that impact you and your practice?
The first and most obvious impact will be increased costs on most items you purchase. You know your costs are going to rise. If you are carrying any debt that does not have a locked in interest rate, you may be paying more in interest.
On top of that, this changing economic climate is going to have an impact on your patients! If they built up a lot of debt while interest rates are low, they will be facing higher financing costs to go along with current levels of inflation.
This is going to dramatically reduce the disposable income of many of your patients. That could make them more resistant to accepting treatment not covered by insurance than ever before!
On one level, you will need to respond by tightening up your systems. If your approach to patients not scheduling treatment you have diagnosed has been cavalier in the past, you may want to change that approach. Many patients will continue to decline treatment in this economy if they are not in pain as they will refuse to spend the money.
However, some of them will say yes. They just need you to remind them why the treatment is so important and what the consequences might be if they continue to delay. Don’t assume the fact they did not say yes right away means they will never say yes in the future. Make sure you are on top of who is overdue for treatment and reach out to them!
Perhaps most importantly, your ability to listen to your patient, to determine what drives them and what motivates them to consider treatment, will be that much more important.
This economic downturn on the heels of so much disruption to our lives is stressful! Many of your patients could be experiencing higher levels of anxiety than they have ever felt before. No matter how much they may trust you, the thought of expensive dental treatment is just going to add another unwanted stressor to their lives, particularly if financing is truly a concern.
While you will always want to encourage your patients to prioritize and invest in their oral health care, you do have to remain sympathetic to the economic realities many of them are facing. Taking the time to listen and to empathize will never be more important than it is today.
That does not mean abandoning any effort to persuade a patient to proceed with treatment you know they need. You are a healthcare provider, and your primary responsibility is to look after the health of your patients.
But you cannot ignore how the experience of the last couple of years combined with a decline in economic confidence might impact them. Empathy will never be more important than it is today.
Don’t assume your patients will not have the financial means to proceed with treatment. But be understanding if they indicate that money is a problem. Invest the time to really understand them, to appreciate what motivates them. If you can do this, you will be in a much better position to find ways to be of service to them!