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Episode #527: Outperforming the Pack in the Age of Covid, with Dr. Grace Yum

the best practices show podcast Jan 20, 2023

Dentistry suffered during the pandemic. Yet, some practices were able to outperform and thrive. To share how they did it, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Grace Yum, founder of Mommy Dentists in Business, who polled members of her MDIB community for their best practices. She found seven key points that helped them outperform during COVID-19, and you can use these tips to prepare for the future. To learn what successful practices did to outperform the rest, listen to Episode 527 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Mommy Dentists in Business Podcast: https://mommydibs.com/podcast

CEO Roundtable events: https://mommydibs.com/events/ceo-roundtable

Main Takeaways:

1) Adopt protocols quickly.

2) Call your patients individually.

3) Drop PPOs as soon as possible.

4) Run “lean and mean” with your team.

5) Be prepared to see emergency patients.

6) Do more elective dentistry. Some are low risk.

7) Build a great culture that your team wants to stay in.


“Looking back and polling the 10,000 [in the Mommy Dentists in Business community], I was able to harvest information, analytical data, on independent practices — not large DSOs — on what they did to financially do better than previous years. One might think, ‘Of course. We shut down. It was COVID-19. Nobody practiced for a couple months. Of course, numbers are going to go down. Of course, production is going to go down. Overhead went up,’ etc. However, there were many practices that outperformed what they did in previous years. And so, I wanted to know, ‘What did you do to outperform yourself?’ And hence, the word, outperformers. And I was able to collect a lot of information from everyone who was willing to share. Some did not want to share publicly on Facebook, so they sent me private messages or emails. And after filtering through all that data, I was able to come up with seven consistent points for action.” (5:37—6:54)

“Number one, COVID-19 protocols were adopted and set in place, in motion, fast. So, the practices that were able to prepare their teams and get those protocols in place and get everybody lined up early on so that when the states say, ‘Open,’ they're ready to go. Because a lot of states said emergencies only. You can only do emergencies. It depended on population density of your town because there are rural parts where COVID-19 didn't hit, and it was business as usual. So, it didn't affect them. But if you were in a very densely populated city where COVID-19 was rampant then, yeah, there were a lot of issues. So, practices who were able to say, ‘Okay, I've got protocols in place. My team is on board, and they're trained,’ and they were kept in the loop during quarantine, they were able to open their doors with confidence, with their team, confident, and quickly.” (10:25—11:32)

“Number two, offices or practices that called their patients individually rather than a mass email, they were able to fill the schedules quickly. The patients felt cared for and were less afraid. They had communication with their patients. The team handled all the questions with compassion, not saying, ‘Oh, you're ridiculous. Don't worry about it.’ No, they said, ‘We understand you're nervous. We understand you're scared. Let us answer your questions. We want to make sure you're comfortable coming in, and not afraid.’” (12:13—12:48)

“There are practices that did both, mass emailing and calling. And you know your patients. You know the ones that are going to be timid and ask you 50,000 questions, and you know the patient that's like, ‘I trust you blindly. Whatever you say, doc. I'm coming.’ So, you have to know your patient base and who you're really going to call.” (13:31—13:53)

“Number three, practices that dropped PPO insurances became more profitable. And that's obvious. You're not in-network anymore. You're going to get cash pay. Of course, it’s going to hike up your productivity and your income. Most doctors would be afraid to drop insurances. But the ones that did drop their PPO did see an increase in their profits because they communicated to the patient why they were dropping the PPO. They explained, ‘I can't see multiple patients at a time now. We can only do one at a time. The rise in cost of PPE, I am trying to keep you safe. I want you to feel comfortable being the only patient in the office and nobody else around, and we want you to know that we paid extra money for the PPE so that we’re all covered up, that you're going to be safe.’ Those patients completely understood and agreed to pay full price.” (13:55—14:59)

“Everyone who dropped [PPOs during COVID-19] were like, ‘This is the perfect time.’ They did it, and they were like, ‘I'm so glad I did it.’ It was the right time to drop the PPO. They were ready.” (15:22—15:35)

“Number four, practices that ran lean and mean, meaning they trimmed the extra fat, they saw their profits rise. So, they ran on a skeleton crew, but they were able to provide the same level of care because now, they're really doing one-on-one, not three ops filled. They were able to do the one-on-one care with a skeleton crew. They lowered their overhead, but then dropped insurances and increased their productivity as far as monetary wise. So, they were getting their profits up.” (15:48—16:26)

“This was the best time to drop toxic employees because you had to furlough. And then, you could bring back who you wanted to bring back. So, they realized, ‘Hey, this guy or girl is always giving everybody trouble. Keep them furloughed. I'm not going to call them until I really need them.’ And so, they said, ‘I'm going to pay for two assistants, and I'm going to drop insurances, and we’re going to run on a skeleton crew.’ One front desk and one back assistant. That's it . . . Why have all these extra hands when you don't need to?” (16:52—17:32)

“Number five, many doctors saw an increase in seeing emergency patients. There were a lot of broken fillings, clenching, and a lot of bruxism. And that's probably because a lot of parents were home with their kids. Everyone was stressed during COVID-19, not just dentists. Doctors reported an increase in broken restorations and, therefore, more dental work. And then, again, going back to what I stated in the beginning, the doctors that secured their PPE first, they were able to see the new patients because the dentists in their community that didn't have their PPE couldn't see patients. So, the ones that adopted the protocols early, got their air purifiers, got the N95 masks, got the gowns, got the face shields, they made patients feel comfortable. They were taking patients from other dentists in the community because they had everything. They were ready to roll. So, all of a sudden, their schedules are packed with emergencies because they had everything. And the minute they could practice again, they were on it.” (17:34—18:45)

“The sixth point, it’s going into what kind of dentistry we were doing. So, a lot of emergencies. But then, because everybody was doing Zoom calls, patients were looking for elective work. They're looking at themselves on camera and they're like, ‘Oh my god, my teeth are brown!’ They wanted veneers. They wanted whitening. They wanted Invisalign. They wanted cosmetic work. More and more people were self-conscious of what they looked like because of Zoom calls or Google Meet calls or Microsoft Team calls. Patients were seeking elective services alongside emergency services. So, that Invisalign case, that $7,000, $8,000 case, boom, they were like, ‘Sign me up. I'm in.’ And how easy is Invisalign? You're scanning a patient, and there were no aerosols, unless you're getting to the bonding buttons and stripping down. But initially, you're just scanning, come back, deliver your first set of trays. There is very low risk in Invisalign at the dental office.” (19:04—20:19)

“The last point that I'm going to leave you with is that doctors who provided a strong culture for their team also reported increase in profits. Because the doctors engaged their team members during quarantine, they leaned in, they said, ‘We’re going to be on WhatsApp. Is your family sick? Did you guys get COVID-19? I'm sending you dinner. Uber is coming over to drop off dinner. You guys need groceries? I'm going to give you guys grocery cards. You guys need this? I'm going to send you this.’ And the doctors who were like, ‘Hey, let's meet on Zoom. Let's check in. Let's talk about the protocols. Let's talk about the PPE. Let's talk about your fears. What are you worried about? What are you not worried about? What do you need?’ those doctors who showed true leadership and kept their team close reported higher numbers. So, that is really important, culture.” (20:59—22:01)

“A lot of this comes down to communication, basically. Communicating with your team, communicating with your patients, communicating with your distributor or manufacturer and getting supplies. If you had a good relationship with the person that you're ordering supplies with, you bet they're going to send you the box of N95s really fast. If you're that person’s favorite dentist and you treat that rep really well, oh yeah, they're going to send you what you need, and fast. If you're only ordering through websites and eBay and there's no person to talk to, good luck. You might be getting fake ones.” (22:03—22:42)

“Right now, the challenge is human capital crunch. People are having a hard time finding employees or team members. And so, they’ve learned, if you can keep your culture happy and people happy, you can maintain. But — I hate to say it — a lot of team members, they're going to leave you for that extra $5. It’s really hard to be pushed into a corner. But a lot of companies, including DSOs, ended up paying double what you normally pay for an hourly employee to keep them around. And now, it’s about building a better mousetrap in your company. It’s about retention. Because we all know, when you have turnover, it’s costly. It’s taking time, spending more money training a new person. You want to retain the good talent that you have because, chances are, they're going to get poached.” (23:14—24:15)

“Learn to communicate. And you need to be a people person. I'm not saying you need to be a pushover or a doormat — I'm not saying that. But you need to learn how to cultivate rapport. That will serve you well ten times over. You need to be likeable. Don't be a jerk. Nobody likes a jerk. Not your patient, not your rep, not your team members. I get it — you worked really hard and long to be a doctor. But stay humble. Don't be a hotshot, because nobody cares for a hotshot. And even if you practice long term, even 20 years out, you're still learning new things. You still make mistakes. And I know that you're going to think, ‘Oh, I'm a doctor. I have “doctor” on my scrub top.’ In 20 years, you're not going to even want to wear scrubs anymore.” (25:08—25:52)

“When you put out good energy and good karma, it comes back to you. It really does. So, I believe that as a young dentist, learn your skillset, learn your trade, learn from mentors, but be a good person. Do what's right for the patient. Do what's right for the team. And put yourself in the other person’s shoes. So, understand before you want to be understood.” (26:16—26:40)

“Keep learning. Keep going. Don't be discouraged. Day to day, it can be discouraging. But look for the positive in that day. Look for your why. Did you make a patient smile? Did you get someone to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love the color of my teeth,’ or, ‘Oh my gosh, I can smile again’? Look for the reasons why you're in this in the first place, because that's going to keep you motivated and that's what's going to keep you coming. And guess what? The money will come.” (27:10—27:41)


0:00 Introduction.

2:25 Dr. Yum’s background.

4:11 Mommy Dentists in Business Podcast and website.

4:57 How her group became a hub for information.

10:13 Getting ahead during COVID-19: get protocols in place quickly.

12:13 Getting ahead during COVID-19: call patients individually.

13:54 Getting ahead during COVID-19: drop PPOs.  

15:46 Getting ahead during COVID-19: run lean and mean.

17:34 Getting ahead during COVID-19: see more emergency patients.

19:01 Getting ahead during COVID-19: do more elective dentistry.

20:59 Getting ahead during COVID-19: keep your team close.

22:44 Findings from her group after COVID-19.

24:44 Advice for dentists.

26:54 Last thoughts on outperforming during COVID-19.

27:44 About CEO Roundtable and future events.

Dr. Grace Yum Bio:

Dr. Grace Yum is a lifelong resident of the Chicago area, where she grew up in Glenview. She is a mother and a certified pediatric dentist — a certification achieved by only 5% of all dentists in the U.S. Dr. Yum is the former founder and practice owner of Yummy Dental & Orthodontics for Kids, and she is also the founder and CEO of Mommy Dentists in Business.

In addition to managing the MDIB community, Dr. Yum hosts her own podcast, Mommy Dentists in Business Podcast. With 11 complete seasons, Dr. Yum’s podcast has been in the iTunes top 100, was ranked number 3 of 15 of the top dental podcasts by Patterson Dental’s Off the Cusp publication, and has been downloaded nearly 80,000 times.

Dr. Yum has quietly become nationally recognized in her field. She has appeared and was featured on the TODAY Show on NBC, NBC Chicago as a repeat guest, Parents magazine, Parenting magazine, and Chicago Parent magazine. She has also appeared on many podcasts, with topics covering dentistry, work/life balance, and business tips for the working mom. 


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