We’re definitely entering uncertain times and as a practice owner, I certainly understand some of the fears and worries you may be having.
About two weeks ago, when our son announced that he and the rest of Microsoft’s Seattle workforce were instructed to work from home for the rest of the month, Mike and I started discussing what we would do if that happened in our area.
As of Thursday, Virginia became one of the newest states to enter a state of emergency, so the virus precautions have made it to our area. After the news conference on Wednesday evening, it looked like all of northern Virginia was ready to hunker down, and the fear was palpable.
In preparation for uncertain times ahead, I’ve spent the last several weeks helping clients across the US make a plan to move forward despite the current fear surrounding us. And today, I want to share those tips with you.
What can you do to battle these uncertain times?
Here are some things you can do to take action during these uncertain times:
– Be a Voice of Reason –
It’s easy to fall prey to all the news reports and the general fear (and for some – the hysteria) surrounding us. But don’t let that be your stopping point. You must remain calm for your team and keep everyone on track. You need to be able to think clearly even when everyone else might be in full panic mode.
They’ll need you to be there for them and be willing to listen to their fears without participating in the panic.
Like a ship’s captain, it’s your responsibility to keep the crew in top shape and the ship on its course. Even in stormy seas, it’s the captain that keeps the crew calm as he steers the ship in ten-foot waves.
– Keep Your Patients Informed –
In the past week, I’ve received about ten emails about what companies around me have been doing to keep their clients safe. We should definitely be doing the same thing! So, write a letter to your past and current patient list and send it to them. You should also post it on social media. The letter should contain important information about what your practice is doing to keep your patient safe. For example:
- Taking extra steps to sanitize the clinic and its equipment daily
- How you have specialized cleaning crews that come in one to two times a week
- That your policy is no sick people in the clinic – patients and staff are to report any illness to the clinic immediately
- Also, include positive information – remind them you’re open and that you’ll keep them up-to-date as you go. Let them know what other offers you have right now – maybe an online class and/or private treatment rooms for high-risk patients.
– Maintain a Healing Environment –
I can’t say this enough, we entered this profession to help others. Studies show that chronic stress can weaken one’s immune system, and I would venture to guess there are a lot of people suffering from chronic stress at this point – or they will be real soon. We also know that inflammation in a joint or muscle can weaken the immune response, so patients suffering from joint or muscle issues might be more susceptible to illness.
While we can’t prevent infection, we can most certainly play a role in reducing stress and inflammation, which can reduce stress on the immune system.
Fight uncertain times with a positive clinic environment
Here’s how you can promote a healing environment in your clinic:
- Avoid negative talk in the clinic – Have a policy that your employees should avoid all talk of the virus and uncertain times. The clinic environment should be a healing environment. By keeping things light and focusing on positive talk, action, and thoughts, our patients will have a respite from what’s happening in the outside world. This helps alleviate stress. So no one should be discussing COVID – not staff talking with each other and definitely not with patients. Find positive things to talk about with them.
- Post positive content on clinic TVs – If you have a television in the clinic, find something fun or positive they can watch to give them a break from the news and all of its confusion. Years and years ago, I worked in rehab that was attached to a nursing home. At times the place could get downright depressing, but my boss always ensured the PT/OT rooms were hopping. He would play Riverdance often and joke with the patients that by the time they were done they would be kicking that high! It was great!
- Help those who can come in keep their appointments – Any patient who isn’t high risk, should be encouraged to come in for care. The goal is to keep them on track and help reduce pain and inflammation. This can help reduce the strain on the immune system because we’re reducing systemic inflammation.
- Keep ALL illnesses out – Look, people are going to get sick. and you cannot change that. However, you can educate your staff and patients on what to do if they get sick. First, you need them to inform you the minute they begin feeling sick. Not just Coronavirus symptoms, I mean they have to let you know if they feel sick AT ALL. We don’t want them waiting until the day before their appointment and most certainly NOT the day of. This will give us enough time to guide them on their choices and help someone else who can come in. It will also help us maintain a safe and healing environment for all.
- Be excessive and very outward in your cleaning – Patients are probably used to seeing you clean your clinic and equipment that they’re almost immune to seeing it. So, it would be best if you were very obvious about it. Clean everything several times a day, clean tables in front of patients, and clean the waiting area and bathrooms.
- Offer private treatment rooms for frightened or higher-risk patients – if you have the ability to clean the rooms well, and want to continue to help these patients, offer them the chance to come in and be seen in private rooms.
- Space treatment tables further apart – If your clinic has the space, take some time to shift your tables around, so patients are further apart. This limits potential exposure and helps your patients see that you care about their health and well-being.
- Create a hand-washing video – This is a fun venture for our patients and one in which the staff can participate. It’s fun, but it will also help patients. Also, you can play a game with patients – Where’s the part of your hand that’s least likely to be cleaned regularly? Guess what? It’s not your palm or fingertips!
– Promote, Promote, Promote –
Promote your services!
It is a common response, in times of fear, to want to retract and bury ourselves deep in a hole out of fear. The reverse should be true. We need to put as much content out there, do as much marketing, and reach as many past patients as possible during the tough time.
Here are a few things you can do to let everyone know you’re there and able to help:
- Have the team create positive and informative promotions. Have each member of the team come up with a list of topics that you can cover. Then have them each take a topic and write a blog. Then they can take that blog and turn it into a short video for social media, and then a newsletter clip, and so on. Have them use their empty time slots to work on this.
- Don’t just market on social media – While it’s a great tool, it shouldn’t be your only option. You’re going to need to build trust along with increasing someone’s interest. Getting past patients to return and getting them to refer others is a great option because there’s already a level of trust that you need when people are afraid to leave their homes. So, have the team send letters and call your past patients. Ask how the patient is doing since the last time they were there. If they’re having pain or problems, the clinician can work to get them on the schedule. If they’re doing great, they can ask them for a referral. It’s important we start with this population as there’s a basic level of trust.
- Have them reach out the drop-offs – Any patient who dropped out in the last six to 12 months can be called. Find out how they’re doing and if there’s any issues noted, get them in for a check-up and reassessment.
- Make sure you let everyone know you’re open and here to help – More people are off work right now and that means that they can come in. So, if they aren’t in a high risk group and they’re not sick, your team should encourage them to come in.
– Create a ‘Honey-Do’ List For Your Team –
Now is the time to get things done that you’ve been putting off. So create a list of things you haven’t had time for and get them done. We’ve decided that if things get light, we’ll close one day and have the team pain part of the clinic. And then the next week we’ll do the same. It can be a fun activity for the team and we’ll be paying them so we can ensure they get paid as best as possible in the tough times.
Here are a few things that should be on the list:
- Content Creation – As I mentioned above, the entire team must assist with marketing and promotion anytime the practice is going through uncertain times. So, have them create as much content as possible. You can use, re-use and re-purpose this content over and over.
- Train Your Staff – I can’t ever say this enough. Don’t rush to tighten your purse strings and send people home. We often don’t get staff trained up because “there isn’t enough time.” Well, now you have some extra time! So, what are you waiting for? Do it now. You won’t regret it because they will have better skills to help you turn the tides, and you’ll come out on top once this passes. And this too shall pass.
- Collect any unpaid Accounts Receivables – This is the perfect time to get everyone to collect Accounts Receivables because more people are at home, so when you call, they should answer. A simple phone call to insurance companies and past patients who owe money is a great action. It can help you bring in money to sustain you over a few uncertain weeks. If you’re calling a patient, ask how they’re doing and learn about the last body part you treated. Make some small talk about their life or family. Then you can use a simple script to broach the subject of their unpaid bill: “Another reason I’m calling is because it looks like you have a $250 balance on your account. We’re trying to see what we can work out with you…”
When you take positive actions, you’re more likely to come out ahead of this. These are all actions you can take right now to either catch up or get ahead of the game.
Wishing you the best, today and always!