Inflation, Groceries, and the Dental Practice
Preparing for Economic Uncertainty
–Written by Dr. DeAngelo S. Webster
Recently, we took a routine grocery shopping trip to Whole Foods. Now, we all know that Whole Foods costs a bit more than the typical grocery store. However, I found myself staring in disbelief at the receipt – nearly $350 for just 4 bags of groceries! It struck me, right there in the checkout lane, how tangibly the specter of inflation has crept into our daily lives over the past few years.
Inflation is not just a word thrown around in economic discussions; it’s a reality that impacts all of us, from the choices we make at the supermarket to the decisions our patients make when they walk through our clinic doors.
Inflation’s Wide-reaching Impact on Necessities
The rising costs of essential items, like groceries, inevitably squeeze household budgets. More and more families find themselves allocating an increasingly large portion of their income to cover basic necessities. In turn, the residual income available for other needs, including health and dental care, becomes constrained.
Some reports have indicated that the average American family is spending approximately 1/5th of their monthly income on groceries.
A concerning ripple effect of this scenario is the escalating reliance on debt. From credit cards to personal loans, many individuals and families are resorting to borrowing to manage their lives, an unsustainable solution in the long run. Take a look at this chart to the right – personal credit debt is dramatically higher than it has ever been. Do you think this is sustainable? It is a representation that the community is running out of cash. Soon, they will also max out their credit. What happens then?
The Dental Practice in an Age of Economic Uncertainty
Now, let’s bring this home to our world – the dental practice. If families are grappling with the choice between purchasing groceries or paying down debt, where does dental care fit in?
There’s a genuine risk that, amidst tightening budgets, regular dental check-ups, elective procedures, and even some necessary treatments might be deferred or skipped. The question then arises: as stewards of oral health in our communities, how do we navigate these challenges?
Strategies to Consider
Flexible Payment Plans: One of the primary deterrents for patients in uncertain economic times is the upfront cost. By offering flexible payment plans, we can help patients manage their dental care expenses over time, making it more accessible.
Educate and Emphasize Preventive Care: Prevention is not only better than cure for health reasons but also from a financial perspective. Regular check-ups can prevent costly treatments in the future. It’s vital to communicate this value proposition to our patients.
Save Cash: In a time of economic uncertainty saving cash can be wise. This is not to say now is not a great time to invest, but perhaps consider keeping your emergency cash fund at a higher balance than usual – just in case you hit a difficult patch economically at the practice.
Engage and Empathize: The importance of open communication cannot be stressed enough. Understanding your patients’ financial situations and showing empathy can go a long way in building trust and loyalty.
Inflation and its subsequent effects on household budgets undoubtedly pose challenges for dental practices. However, with a proactive approach, understanding, and flexibility, we can continue to provide essential services to our communities and ensure the financial health of our practices.
What strategies will you employ in your practice to navigate these uncertain economic times? Let’s brainstorm, collaborate, and lead our practices with resilience and foresight.
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