The year 2020 has not been very kind to most businesses because of COVID-19’s effect on the economy. Small and large companies alike closed down for months or operated with limited resources, and for smaller businesses, recovering from months of loss can be very difficult. It’s even harder for businesses that are just starting out, as most plans crumbled and were left discontinued. This scenario is familiar for Dr. Melody Ann Alcaraz, owner of Alcaraz Dental Clinic, as she established her own clinic during uncertain times. Today, we’ll learn how she was able to move forward and build her business despite the myriad of challenges she faced along the way.
Dr. Melody started her dental profession in a mall-based clinic. She shortly became a faculty member at a university, while also attending to a limited number of patients at her home clinic on the side. In 2019, despite also working part time as an associate dentist for a private clinic, she decided to open her own services to the public, with a set operation schedule of three times a week. At the time, her own clinic was located in her residence, and while the home clinic was doing fairly well, the pandemic hit, and the business seemed to come to a pause as almost all establishments were temporarily closed down under the mandatory community quarantine. Despite this massive hurdle, Dr. Melody realized that she had to keep going despite the current situation, so she did not waste any time and instead, focused on setting up plans for her own clinic. Eventually, she was able to transfer to a better location and opened the new Alcaraz Dental Clinic in July 2020.
So how did Dr. Melody do it? It certainly wasn’t easy, but she was driven by her obligation to her patients, and thought of their needs first. “There was a time that I thought to myself if I should quit my profession, because it was really hard to push through it at the time. I had to add more equipment, and delikado kasi itong profession [this profession can be dangerous] during this time,” she shared. “But despite this pandemic, I was able to establish my clinic because I realized na hindi ko pwedeng bastang iwanan yung patients [that I can’t just leave my patients], and I know for one thing na ito na yung calling ko [that this is my calling].”
Having transferred to a better commercial location, the clinic is now accessible to more people, and has become a safer place to conduct procedures compared to the previous home clinic.
When asked how she builds trust with her patients, Dr. Melody said, “I’m just honest with them. When you are honest, the patient will see and feel it. So I don’t sugarcoat things. What I see, ayun yung maririnig nila sa akin [that’s what they will hear from me].”
Dr. Melody makes sure to be transparent with all of her patients. She informs them about the possible complications and takes the time to carefully explain what happens in the necessary procedures that the patients need to go through. “I don’t always talk about the results and the good things, I’ll also explain the bad things that may happen. Once the patients fully understand everything, they will trust you.” And sure enough, being truthful and frank to her patients has proved to be beneficial for the clinic. Patients whom she assisted in her home clinic still consult her regularly, and newer patients become regulars as well because of the trust she was able to build with them.
Dr. Melody Ann Alcaraz and Alcaraz Dental's operating room
Although Dr. Melody was able to overcome a huge hurdle in terms of establishing her clinic, there are still several challenges that she is currently facing due to the pandemic. Most people, if not all, have been affected financially by COVID-19, and this applies to both Dr. Melody and her patients. Aside from this, people rarely go out in order to avoid health risks, which also affects the number of patients that come in for consultations and procedures.
“This is why all I can do now is make my patients feel safe whenever they come here, to show them that I am prioritizing their health and safety above all.” said Dr. Melody. The clinic makes sure to follow all protocols mandated by the government, and regularly disinfects the space after every procedure. Patients are only received through appointment, and even then, they are subject to screening before their schedule gets approved. When patients have symptoms of COVID, appointments are instantly deferred.
“Staying positive and continuing to move forward can be difficult in most days given the current situation. We don’t know what more can happen, and we’re not in control with what happens in the world,” Dr. Melody said. “So I always just seek guidance from the Lord. I just keep going and let God handle the rest, and this is what I can advise to people who are also struggling with their business right now.”
Dr. Melody applies a paperless approach to her practice. Appointment schedules and patient information are safely stored digitally. However, the clinic still cannot help but accept cash payments from patients, as cash is still the most popular choice of payments for Filipinos. JazzyPay has since helped Dr. Melody pursue the paperless practice with less hurdles in terms of dealing with cash payments. “It’s safer, kasi kung gagawin online, hindi na nila kailangan to go from one contact point to another [because if they pay online, they don’t need to go from one contact point to another]. It provides a safer medium for the patients, and it’s convenient for me since I have a paperless practice,” More importantly, JazzyPay also serves as a payment medium that can aid people during emergencies. She added, “It’s also very helpful to patients who need immediate treatments, but don’t have cash upfront. This time, they can use their cards for any emergency procedures.”
Alcaraz Dental Clinic is located in the Neth Square Building Unit F, 2nd Floor, in Bacoor City. Set an appointment with Dr. Melody Alcaraz or keep yourself updated with news and reminders from the clinic by visiting their Facebook page at @alcarazdentalcares.