Many of us believe that we are already seeing a second wave of COVID-19. We feel it is here, now that we have seen a continuous rise in cases and that we should also try to be prepared for potentially a third and fourth wave.
The COVID-19 crisis found the world unprepared, but despite this, the reaction was both rapid and responsible. Nonetheless, challenges remained – especially as practices moved from initial response to living with the pandemic longer-term. Healthcare has proven its resiliency to both recessions and now a pandemic, so now is the time to plan and not simply react. The best we can all do is take the lessons we learned from how we responded to the first wave. I am a firm believer that history truly is a great teacher. The first thing every practice owner needs to do is talk to other practice owners. Don’t use the time to complain and fear the worst but rather, ask people what they did the first time. What did they feel worked well and what would they do differently if they had to? Now is the time to do a review and see if your business plan requires a revision or modification. People will always need healthcare. That is a fact. But there is nothing stopping you from ensuring your practice operations are fine tuned in order to manage future waves.
An important measure to take is improve your communication with staff and prioritize their concerns. Despite all the protocols implemented in offices, staff are human. Many are anxious and as numbers increase, so does fear. Taking time to listen and not dismiss is critical. Addressing their concerns in an open and transparent manner will go a long way in keeping them engaged. As the owner, providing confidence and reassurance is key. Offices have gone to great lengths to ensure all the steps are in place to ensure the safety of both staff and patients within the practice. Being that calm voice in the storm is so important. Human nature is such that people will make decisions on their own, if a clear strategy is not presented for them to follow. This is where your leadership matters.
This may sound very simplistic or even obvious but ensuring that you have a proper supply of PPE, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies will avoid any scrambling or being caught in a rush that could result. Another tip is to continue to manage your cash flow – both in the office and at home. I sincerely do not believe a second closure of offices will occur, but from the various practice owners I’ve spoken to, those who could weather the storm the first time were people who were not overleveraged. It is easy to engage in retail therapy or home renovations (I certainly have) in lieu of not taking a formal vacation or just managing stress. Do your best to create a financial cushion. Also, one of the best things you can do to help calm yourself during times of uncertainty is to prepare regular budgets and stress-test them. This knowledge will give you better clarity and an important sense of control.
During the lockdown, I was so impressed to see practice owners take to the internet – whether it was videos, email messages or Facebook posts. Keeping patients connected is so critical. Now more than ever is the time to be an informative and calming voice to patients. Do not be afraid to invest wisely in your online presence.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that we need to prepare for future pandemics. Infectious disease experts warn that COVID-19 may not be the only global pandemic we experience in our lifetime. Some of the changes we have had to roll out may now become part of the ‘new normal,’ such as physical distancing in reception areas and PPE during patient visits. After all, it was the care of patients with HIV that led dentists to start wearing masks and gloves.
COVID-19 has taught us that even in volatile times, it is possible to manage and maintain your practice. Some have even been able to grow. While we all had to adapt on the fly earlier this year, this time around we can turn to the good habits we adopted and lessons learned during the first wave to get ourselves through the ones to come.
Keep staying safe and healthy!
Jackie Joachim is Chief Operating Officer of ROI Corporation. Please contact her at email@example.com or 1-844-764-2020.