Dr. Allison House and Shawn Zajas are back with another noteworthy episode. In this episode, they discuss the three things you can do to prepare for an extraordinary 2021:

  • Write a patient letter. Include oral care regimens related to overall health and immunity.
  • Start gathering data for your 1st of year meeting. What kind of things do you want to do for your practice to grow it?
  • Take time to reflect on how you can be at your best. What are some little things you can do on a daily basis that will make you feel healthy?

Full Transcript Below

Shawn: (00:57)
Hey, this is Shawn and Allison with the authentic dentist podcast. And today we’re excited to talk about looking forward at 2021 and three things you can do today right now in your practice to get ready for it. Because this year it’s been crazy. It’s probably not the best description, but it’s been all over the place. And I think it’s probably kind of exciting for most of our listeners to think about and imagine what next year could be like

Allison: (01:29)
2021 is going to be great. I mean, it has to be better than this year, right?

Shawn: (01:33)
I think so. I hope so. My goodness, but you know, what, if, if people are, I don’t know, even like hearing this podcast now and they’re still in dentistry alive and surviving, I think that is a Testament to how resilient dentists are and how resilient just, just people are, you know, that they’ve, they’ve made it this far. So just congratulations, if that’s you and you, haven’t given up. And if you have given up in some areas again, that’s what we’re here for is to encourage you to kind of have hope again, in some of those areas that were, that you might’ve lost hope.

Allison: (02:14)
So the three things that I’m going to encourage you to do so every year for the last 10 years we write a letter in September, October about end of the year benefits with insurance. We’re contracted with some insurance and as you know, dental insurance and health insurance are different at the end of the year, your dental insurance rolls over and those benefits are gone. So usually write a letter that looks like that this year, my letter’s going to be a little bit different and we’re, we’re getting it printed. It’s going to go out next week.

Shawn: (02:47)
Now this is a letter to all of your patients, to all of my patients. Now, does that mean like when you do a query really it’s like active patients or like everybody on your list. So we

Allison: (03:00)
Print a list of all the active patients, but then of course you have to cross some of that out. We’re not going to send one to mom and dad and son and daughter. Okay. So just per household, really,

Shawn: (03:10)
But that, that could be someone that may not have come in in the last two years.

Allison: (03:15)
That is normally my rule. That if I haven’t seen you in two years, you’re not really part of my active patients this year. It’s been a little different. I’ve got about two and a half years because some people I haven’t seen this year, but when I talked to them, they’re still wanting to be part of my practice. They’re just afraid.

Shawn: (03:32)
Okay. So how does this year’s letter maybe like what’s different about it? Cause that’s kind of what you’re just leading to this letter might be a little different.

Allison: (03:44)
So the American dental association came out with a policy statement that dental care was essential health care. And the reason they did that is because they didn’t want us to be shut down again. We are part of the healthcare system. It’s not appropriate for us to be shut down, but I think it’s this huge opportunity for us to tell our patients how important their health is in the middle of a pandemic and how their oral health contributes to their overall health. It’s, it’s an opportunity and an opportunity I think they’re gonna want to hear.

Shawn: (04:22)
So when did this statement get released?

Allison: (04:26)
Maybe two months ago.

Shawn: (04:27)
Okay. You know, I feel like it’s just so appropriate to acknowledge like patients, man, the confusion that they must have gone through since this pandemic. Because again, all of us were looking, who’s going to lead who, you know, who should we be listening to? Is it the CDC? Is it the, who is it? Like who’s telling us what’s okay. And what’s safe. And man, the verdict on dentistry was all over the place.

Allison: (04:56)
It was a nightmare. I got to be on the council for dental practice during this time. And when the who and the CDC and the Arizona department of health all say something totally different, it just blew my mind, just blew my mind, but we’re, we’re starting to get on the same page as information comes in.

Shawn: (05:19)
So, but I mean, so there’s a chance that one of your patients only heard the message of stay away from your dentist because it’s a high risk area and maybe they didn’t hear an update, right? So, you know, all of your active patients might be in a different frame of reference. And that’s why I think this letter is great to try to bring some education, maybe some reassurance. And yeah, it’s an opportunity because who knows where, what the last bit of information that they got.

Allison: (05:52)
And we have to remember that we are an authority figure to them and we don’t always embrace that and feel like we are, but we are an authority figure, a medical health professional that our patients trust. And they do want to hear what we have to say. So I wrote this letter and my letter does say that it’s never been more important for you to take care of yourself. You need to eat your vegetables. You need to exercise. You need to get back into a routine because a lot of people are at home going to school and working and their routine is just lost. They’re not sleeping properly. They’re not brushing their teeth. They’re not eating on any sort of regular schedule. And so my letter talks about that, you know, get back into your normal habits where you’re taking care of yourself. And I think that’s important for us to stress that we are part of your overall system and you need to be healthy everywhere.

Shawn: (06:49)
I love that. Cause not only are you saying like, Hey, this is a routine or, or get back to something that that’s yeah. Familiar to you because routines did get smashed. You know, you have people that weren’t staying at home that now are stuck at home. You have kids that were getting free daycare, AKA education. Now at home, everything got flipped upside down and people find comfort in that. Like, this is my pace. This is my, I don’t know. And part of their routine, if you know, they were good, patient is dentistry is making sure they’re coming in to see you. And it’s kind of that like reminder of like, yes, be expecting to get back to that in 2021 because your health matters.

Allison: (07:32)
So my letter says, you need to come in, especially if you’re overdue, let’s get a reset. Let’s get your teeth cleaned. Let’s make a checkup. Especially if you’ve been out of your routine and you haven’t been brushing your teeth on a regular basis. And I didn’t say this, but people know there’s no judgment here. I mean, we have been through something, so let’s just get you back healthy. And the reality is that the healthy you are, the more likely you are to be able to fight off this, this pandemic.

Shawn: (08:01)
I love that. No, I think that’s great. So what is the second thing that dentists can do right now to prepare themselves for next year?

Allison: (08:11)
So I’ve talked about it before, but at the beginning of every year, I have a huge meeting. It’s an all day meeting and my team and I go through what the next year is going to look like. We set our goals. We we talk about personal goals. We really, really open up, but in order to do that properly, you’ve got to start gathering data. And so today you need to start gathering the data for that, for that meeting.

Shawn: (08:38)
Okay. So in a future episode, we’re going to go into detail about what that meeting is, because I think the way that you’ve structured it with just all the experience you’ve been doing this for so long is going to be so helpful for our listeners. But what is some of the data that they need to start kind of paying attention to now?

Allison: (08:58)
Well, our software does keep track of some of the data, but start looking at what you’re referring out. I refer out a ton of endo. I will never do it. I hate it. Not doing it doesn’t matter how much I send out, but if you’re sending out a hundred thousand dollars worth of orthodontics, is that something you should incorporate into your practice in some way? If you send out a hundred thousand dollars worth of implants, is that something you should incorporate into your practice? And so that’s going to be some of the things you want to talk about at that meeting. What are you going to incorporate in your practice? That’s going to make you more successful, more profitable and deliver what your patients are asking for.

Shawn: (09:40)
You know, and I think that’s great because part of, you know, we’re getting close to quarter four and I think quarter four is always a great time to be looking of like, okay, for the next year, where, where do I want to be? I know that’s what I’m already doing with my team. And part of that is coming up with what are we intentionally wanting to grow in and learn so that we can actually be proficient and get in the game and start actually like getting to do that. So for example, like you were saying with implants, okay. So if, if there’s a hundred thousand that you’re referring out, well, you make that decision. You can’t start in January, all of a sudden running, you know, all of a sudden doing implants successful, you have to plan out what courses maybe do we need to go to. And what could that roll out look like, but you got to start planning that now

Allison: (10:34)
Absolutely started half. Think about what it is that you want to incorporate in your practice. And then you’re going to want to plant that at your morning meeting or at your annual meeting. The other thing I would do is I would put that annual meeting on the schedule schedule the time, because it will get busy and you won’t get it done. We have a Friday that we take and it’s not eight hours. We usually do it at my house. And I make sure that everybody can be there that Friday. So it’s on the schedule already for January.

Shawn: (11:04)
I was thinking of some joke between like Allison house and house dental. And you’re doing this at your house. I was like, which house? But that joke,

Allison: (11:14)
I hear that one. The other thing I start looking at is spring break because it’s September, we’re scheduling into March. It’s really inconvenient to have to reschedule people. So I’m asking my team to start looking at their kids’ schedules. When is their spring break? When do they plan a trip? So we can start collaborating that information. And if we find that we all have the same spring break, well then we’re going to schedule that in March. So we’re not having to reschedule people. And of course we’ve already done that because it’s September, September 22nd, but it’s, it’s worth doing to start making sure that you don’t have to reschedule patients all the time because it’s inconvenient for you. It’s inconvenient for them.

Shawn: (12:00)
Oh yeah. So this time period that you’re thinking of putting for this meeting, it’s like, when’s a good time. Is this like the first week of January? Is this just in the month of January? What do you recommend

Allison: (12:14)
As soon in January as you possibly can do it? Because you’re sort of in that motivation of the new year, the reset people are excited and we’ll, we’ll have a whole podcast on this, on how to do this more, this annual meeting and how to get your team excited. And you excited about the new year, but for now really start gathering some data on what is it you love? What can you incorporate? What are some things that you’ve been wanting to do that you could do and how

Shawn: (12:44)
That’s wonderful. So which leads us to the third thing that dentists can do right now to get them set up for a successful and exciting 2021, because let’s face it it’s we want to, I think most people want to, I don’t wanna say turn the page, but I think they’re ready to start again a fresh, because it’s kind of been, I don’t know. I think the word weariness is probably a good way to describe how people could be feeling right now.

Allison: (13:16)
So I I’ve been doing this for awhile and I have a coach now that I set up and I actually three hours scheduled with her today. And it’s just an opportunity to sort of break through some barriers. But you can do it any way you want, where you just schedule some time just for you away from your family, away from your team, away from the office where you can just reflect. And it seems like a waste of time. At first, the first couple times I did it. I’m like, why am I doing this ridiculous, but then a lot of things just come to mind. Yeah, this isn’t working for me in my life. I know it isn’t and where our solutions and my coach doesn’t always have the solutions, but she encourages me to figure out how to make these things happen.

Shawn: (14:01)
Yeah. I think, I think great coaching is, is helping someone else along that path of discovery. And that’s where it’s like, if you don’t have a coach and you’re doing it by yourself, it’s just like being kind of free to just ask questions that you’re not, you know, used to asking, like, you know, what could I stop doing this next year that really isn’t bringing life, whether it’s a personal routine or whether it’s a professional routine in the practice, you know, and what could we start doing? But I think, you know, you described it as kind of like a, a retreat. And I think that’s such a great, a great way of looking at it because that’s what dentists deserve. That, that break, you know, you’re, you’re always on, you’re leading, everyone’s looking to you and at some point you need to prioritize your own wellbeing and just for mental sanity sake, you know, and I think this it’s almost like the Abraham Lincoln sharpening the ax. Exactly. Yes. It’s like, you’re, you’re worth it. And I’m so glad you have that scheduled. Allison, because again, it’s like your patients deserve you being at your best. Your team deserves you being at your best. And that means you getting to invest in yourself

Allison: (15:16)
And, and just taking that time to be reflective. You know, I know there’s a couple of things I’m doing right now that are not helping me be a great dentist and I need to change them. And some of them are kind of minor like in the morning I don’t get up. I look at my Facebook and I play my Facebook for half an hour. Why I should get up and go exercise. Sometimes I find that in the afternoon I’m getting tired and I’ll eat chocolate. Well then by the end of the day, I’m exhausted because that, that didn’t nourish me the way I needed to be nourished. And I’m probably not at my best for that last patient, because my sugar high is over and they seem like dumb things, but overall they’re making a difference in whether or not I am at my best. And so just taking a minute to reflect on, okay. So there’s some habits that I have right now that are not making me go towards my goal and they’re small things, but the small things add up,

Shawn: (16:14)
You know? And, and I feel like, again, because it’s hard to talk about this, not in the context of, we’re still a myth to Penn DEMEC and I just want people to give themselves grace, because as you reflect, you might get discouraged thinking, Oh my gosh, like I have slipped so far from the consistent person that I was, or my highest self and best self. Like, I don’t want you to get discouraged because,

Allison: (16:44)
But we’re human and it’s impossible to live at that high standard all the time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t strive for it. So you give yourself some grace it’s been a terrible year. My chocolate helped me through it.

Shawn: (16:57)
Right. The little coping mechanisms that, that, that was okay. And just like our last podcast, if you didn’t catch it with Tonya, it was so inspiring. And one of the things she said was that her mother gave her the gift of, I don’t know if it was patients, but it was just that idea of a challenging situation in her life. She realized it offered her a gift. And in this time of reflection also just think of the gifts that the pandemic gave you. What, what resilience did it possibly develop in you that you didn’t know you had? What, you know, what are those gifts? Because I know it, it takes a moment of reflection for me to see where that’s happened with me. And, and one of the things I’ve realized is how amazing my team is because they have been so willing to just get through this mess, this uncertainty, and that has given me so much confidence that man, once we start picking up our pace again, in 2021, I have amazing people around me that I can trust. And that’s one of the gifts that pandemic has shown me.

Allison: (18:06)
See? And I found that too. I lost an office manager and I was forced to step up and lead it in a different way that I’ve been leading and it forced me to grow and it was uncomfortable and I’ve had a lot of struggles with it. And at the same time, my team has just stepped up. They are amazing. I’m going to walk into 2021 with the strongest team I’ve ever had. Why? Because of a pandemic. It’s so odd to think about it, but it’s true. We’re going to walk into a fantastic 20, 21.

Shawn: (18:37)
So the three things people can do to recap.

Allison: (18:40)
Okay. So the first one is to write your letter and be sure that you include oral care related to health, overall health and immunity. Number two, start gathering data for that. First of the year planning meeting, what kind of things do you want to do for your practice to grow it? And number three, take some time to be reflective on how you can be at your best and what are some little things you can do to make yourself feel better that are healthy.