What business looks like post COVID-19

In times like these a proactive approach can be the difference between success and failure. It is not business as usual and the market predictions suggest only 40-50% of patients shall return within the next three months. Therefore, addressing health and safety concerns, combined with motivating patients to return sooner is critical. Everything we know about healthcare has changed in light of COVID-19.

1. Have a plan – a make it flexible

One of the most important steps is to develop a plan that encompasses the three groups that will be affected by the post-COVID-19 changes: business, staff, and patients. Since no one knows exactly what to expect going forward, your plan will need to be fluid and flexible.

There are several essential elements a plan should include, safety, patient care and business recovery. Will patients have to come in by themselves, or will you allow companions if they are screened upon arrival as well? Will you increase consultation times to allow for social distancing? How will you secure patient appointments to recover financially? These are all things you’ll need to think through and plan for well in advance of reopening, and communicate the changes to your patients.

2. Address patient fears

Many patients have been locked up in their homes, without income and the stress of not being able to move freely during lock down. With the increase in screen time and amount of time spent online, many patients may have become overly exposed to coronavirus information, causing panic, fear and irrational thought. “Despite the lock down being lifted, many of our clients have reported that their patients are afraid to leave home, even to visit their own family members. Coming in to see their eye doctor is currently not high up on the list right now it seems.”, noted Elaine Coetzee, Customer Success manager, Nevada Cloud.

Patients want to know what your practice is doing to protect them. Ask patients what will make them feel safe, and communicate your new safety protocols before they step in the door.

Patients want to know what you are doing in your practice to protect them. You should also communicate your practice’s new safety procedures on your website, social media platforms, and in your emails and texts to patients. Fear does not need to be rationale, yet it takes time, empathy and repetition to nature patient trust. Reaching out to customers to regain focus on eye health and the importance of maintaining their vision care and treatment plans is key to ensure patients know when and why they should return.

Customize your revisit reminder introduction for all patient communication.  This give patients the peace of mind as to the new hygiene and safety protocols, addressing concerns regarding returning for re-examination, collection or purchasing of vision care products. The following Introduction can be copied directly into your electronic patient management software:

“Greetings from <>, In our endeavors to promote primary health care and provide the best quality vision to all our patients we thought it vital to reach out to you directly. As a healthcare provider we always strive to deliver the highest clinical and hygiene standards. In light of the COVID-19 virus we would like to assure you that we are committed to a safer environment and all necessary precautions are in place. We appreciate you putting your trust in our practice as we transition through this pandemic together. ”

 – extract from Ocumail CRM

Let your patients know you are open and ready to see them! Being ready means creating a safer environment and giving patients the assurance that all hygiene protocols and safety procedures are in place. Understanding the value of each customer to the business can assist in identifying where to focus your appointment efforts, whilst functioning with reduced capacity and social distancing policies. This can be done by sending a personalized patient campaign, targeted at that specific patient segment.

Our practice has made use of the Ocumail software for the past three years, allowing us to profile all our patients and automate our communication to their mobile devices. As a result, our optometrists have reached out directly to their patients to initiate contact lens re-orders, re-examination and targeting those who spend more on optical. We were overwhelmed as to positive responses we have received.

added Graham Chrich Summerstrand Optometrists.

4. Take recovery action

Take proactive steps to recover financially by releasing all the unsent practice-patient communication that has placed on hold whilst the practice was closed, during the COVID-19 lock down. This includes your Cooper Vision and other contact lens re-orders, optical examinations and eye disease management like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and glaucoma patients.

During these sensitive times sending generic recalls may be deemed impersonal and can have a negative impact on patient behavior. As these are unsettling times, the more empathy shown to patients, and the more information that can be provided about their conditions, the better their understanding and willingness to return.

5. Show gratitude

For many patients, the fear of leaving home is a reality and returning to an eye care professional can be daunting. Personalized your post consultation messages to express gratitude for trusting in you, your team and your commitment to their safety can go along way. Thanking patients for their support and patience with industry suppliers whom are also experiencing supply chain challenges, resulting in delays of treatment, whether surgical, optical or contact lens ordering. Transparency in communicating expected delays is surprisingly becoming common place and patients are seemingly more understandable in this regard, as we all journey through this pandemic together. 

Thank you for visiting our practice in these unprecedented times. We have elevated all of our hygiene standards in the fight against COVID-19, along with several other processes, as we adjust to the ‘new normal’. We appreciate you putting your trust in us and for your patience as we transition through this pandemic together.

Example of the message included in the Ocumail Patient Consultation report:

6. Inform patients with the latest information

Including the latest COVID-19 information in your consultation report to your patient creates a feeling of empathy during these stressful times. Providing highly relevant information can lead to better patient outcomes and provide relief to many of the COVID-19 associated lifestyle changes experienced.

Sharing your eyecare expertise in the consultation room is always a sign of a great practitioner, but often there just isn’t enough time to explain everything. Allowing patients to receive all the information on their own mobile device, means they can spend a lot more time engaging in the information sent from their eye doctor. Studies have shown that consumer education leads to informed buying decisions, greater spend and happier clients who return sooner. It is highly recommended to send every patient an eye care report as part of their consultation, to elevate service levels at a critical time in healthcare, as COVID-19 continues to impact everyone in some form.

7. Get your message out

Social media posts let your followers know that you are open for business. Reminding them that the new protocols are in place to address consumer concerns regarding eye care and returning to their optometrist. Ensure patients know that their safety is your priority.

Communicating with patients is key during this time, using the right message on all platforms will result in patients returning sooner. 

Finding a partner to help you, your practice and your staff transition through the disruptive impact of COVID-19 can be comforting and establish new ways to improve business. Reducing practice overheads and expenses where possible can reduce the operating costs of the business, but one must be mindful of the impact on customer service levels.

Scrutinizing current practice expenditure on marketing, social and online initiatives is essential to understand their ROI and if these are worth continuing during this time. Any spend should create positive cash flow and result in getting your existing customers to return sooner! A basic recovery plan for you practice gives you a chance to consider how to get business back on track in the quickest possible time. This should include:

  • Strategies to recover your business activities in the quickest possible time – how are you going to get patients to return sooner even though the pandemic is still happening?
  • A description of key resources, equipment and staff required to recover your operations
  • Your recovery time objectives
  • A checklist you can use when you are back in the practice

Ensure that patients leave your practice well treated and well informed about the health of their eyes and the precautions you have put in place to protect them. With the world moving online, chances are they will sing your praises and share this experience with friends, family and online reviews. The Nevada Cloud Business Recovery Plan has been extended to hundreds of practitioners to assist in the fight against COVID-19 and the recovery of eyecare sector. For more information on the funded assistance provided by the Nevada Cloud Recovery Business Plan, click below.

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