How to help patients get care during Covid
Earlier today I heard from a client who was forced to close their clinic with less than a days' notice. The entire town was closing down at noon today.
It's on everyone's mind and I'm sure that Mike and I are not the only owners making plans to ensure our clinic survives if we have to close during this health crisis.
I spent some time painting my office this weekend and used that time to come up with some things we all can do during isolation that can help our practices in the long run (remember, we should all be thinking about how we'll get through this long term; not just the immediate future).
First and foremost, don't panic; instead take action!
A common reaction for many of us when we're feeling fear and uncertainty is to shut the world out and hide away. But that's the worst thing you can do because it isn't proactive and it will only make things worse in the long run.
So, don't close yourself off, don't shrink, don't stop moving forward. Think about the future, not just this moment in time. Work hard everyday to be positive, be forward thinking!!! The more you do, the better you will be.
You might be asking yourself, "how do we do that when we're stuck at home?" Good question!
Here are some great actions you can take now and if you end up being forced to close:
Plan for daily huddles from home.
Keep the team together even while they're still at home. Have a daily team huddle, play a game online or by phone, talk about positive things. Make plans to move forward as a team, set goals for the coming months, and avoid discussion about the bad stuff right now.
AVOID talk of the bad times.
It isn't healthy to continue to focus on all the negative. I can promise that after a weekend of being forced to watch all the crappy news reports, all the panic, all the bad, we're all pretty darn stressed out, whether we want to be or not. For many, having a weekend without watching sports is pretty disappointing as it is. But with all the constant negative news, this takes me back to the months after 9/11 when we were all pretty unsure if WWIII was going to begin.
Here's something to consider - we can learn a lesson from our elders. Most of the country isn't old enough to have lived through WWII or the depression; but during those times there was an unwritten rule about not talking about the 'bad times' and so they went about their days, however horrible they were, and they talked about good times, good weather, and kept things light and positive. So, start there and do it everywhere, not just your practice...
Stay in contact with your patients
It's important that we remain in contact with our current list of patients. We don't want them to think we forgot them during this crisis and it's our duty to help them. In fact, many of our patients live alone and we should check on them, just to make sure they're doing ok throughout this crisis. Here are a few things you can do:
Remain in contact with your current patient list. This one is really important. It's easy to say, "well, we've been forced to close, so we'll see you when we see you". But, no, that's not in the best interest of our patients or the practice or your staff's future in their jobs. (I don't mean this to be threatening, I'm being completely serious here. We all need to guarantee that we have something to come back to. And this isn't only the owner's or manager's responsibility.) So, they should each have a list of patients they're reaching out to several times per week. If we're home, the patient is home and they should be instructed that we're going to call them and check in and go over their home exercise program with them. Again, we need to keep this list warmed and continue to help even as we're forced to social distance in the coming weeks.
Offer online exercise classes for your patients and others. This doesn't have to be promoted as therapy, just something to keeps people active while they're at home. I remember years ago, as a PT student, I volunteered at Shriner's Hospital assisting during an exercise class for kids with Spina Bifida. And we used an exercise tape from Richard Simmons. Super fun, on mats, in chairs, and standing. Now, we can hold live classes online and get people to sign up. Why not charge a small fee per class?? You could have different classes for different needs and interests...
Write letters to past and current patients. This is another responsibility of the whole team. Just because they're at home, doesn't mean they shouldn't want a job to come back to. These are actions that can be worked on anywhere; so why not do them at home. All you need to do is give them the supplies and a list of patients they're in charge of writing letters to. Need help with a letter? Let me know, I'm happy to help!
Promote like crazy!!
The more you promote, the more you remain relevant as we move forward. Remember, you want people to remember you when we come through this. Here's what you can do if you're stuck at home:
Have an online webinar that people can sign up for, have 3 if you can! Be creative with this and think outside the box. Stay in the forefront of their minds even through the current crisis. Your webinars or workshops can be educational, fun, not just some slides up on the screen. It's time to build an audience...
Create promotional content at home. This is good to keep us all focused on our true purpose. It's not just the owners job to make sure there's a clinic to come back to. It's also the teams job to make sure there are patients coming in as soon as you can reopen. So, give them a body part and challenge them to first create a list of 5-8 blog/podcast topics around this body part. Then have them write up some blogs and then use the same topics to create newsletter content and educational videos.
Start or continue to promote on Social Media. Reuse old content, make it look new with a new title and photo. Reach out to whoever is helping you with your current social media marketing and work with them to create appropriate content that builds your list. You might not be able to treat them right at the moment but as specialists in the body, we know that problem isn't going away while they're sitting at home. So, now you have a list to work with! Once you collect names, you can promote to them now and in the future. Start with educational content and as things die down and you're getting ready to reopen, you can promote to get them to sign up for an evaluation. Collect names at this time and you'll come out ahead later.
Use past patient success stories as promotional material. Look, you want people to know, like and trust you when this is all over. The best way to do that is to have "Patient Results Tuesdays" and post 5-10 patient results (of course make sure you had signed permission for those you're posting)...post a new patient result every hour throughout the day on Tuesdays.
Learn, Study, Train...
If you and your team are forced to be at home for an undetermined amount of time, you should all focus on learning more so you can return as a better, more able team. It may seem crazy to invest money at a time like this, but investing in yourself AND your team is the best possible thing you can do. The more you learn, the better you will be able to handle things as you return and work to build up your list again. Why not use the time wisely...
While this is a great time for your clinical team to do their CEU's, don't forget about the rest of your team, especially your front office team! Check out this information on "Why You Should Train Your Front Office Team"
In quiet times, the better they're drilled and trained, the better off everyone will be!
And finally, REMAIN POSITIVE
I know we're all scared and most of us have never seen anything like this in our lives; but this too shall pass and we can get through it together! The more positive we are, the better off we will fair in this current crisis. Keep the "negative-nellies" out of your life and off your Facebook feed. Learn from your grandparents and great-grandparents who survived the Great Depression and only let in the good, positive, forward thinking thoughts. Reach out to neighbors and family to make sure they're ok, do something nice for someone, laugh with your family and friends and take care of yourself. This too shall pass and we can come out stronger than we ever thought we were!
Remember, as things start to reopen you're going to need to ramp up, so if you do end up in a forced shut down, or if things get light, work to build a stronger team through skills training; and if it comes to it, remote team-building activities. Grow a newer and stronger list and keep your current and past patient lists warm. Remain in contact with those patients that stopped due to the closure and make sure they complete their plan of care once the ban is lifted.
The more you and your team put in the effort now, no matter how uncertain things may appear, the better you'll come through this as it subsides.
I hope this helps and that if you got something out of it, that you'll share it far and wide. My focus is the front office of your private practice; but my purpose will always be to help others!
Wishing you the best, today and always, Dee
I started Front Office GURU with a single goal in mind and that’s to help private practices thrive. Your front office plays an integral role in your success and yet, most practices don’t have set training and systems to ensure that everyone in the front office manages patients the same way. Don’t wait until the perfect time to get started because there will never be that perfect time, that perfect staff.
As and practice owner, former manager, and the Front Office GURU, I understand the difficulties you face because I've been there. And my programs provide the solution.
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