It’s been roughly six months since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the physical closings and then modified reopenings of optometric offices. With this in mind, three private practice optometrists share the business lessons they’ve learned over this time, and which changes, made as a result of the coronavirus, they’ll continue after the pandemic.
“I think the biggest lesson I learned is to have a large cash reserve, just in case we are shut down for a long period of time,” offers Allan Hudson, O.D., who practices in Redmond, Ore. In terms of changes made, due to the coronavirus, he says his practice will continue with its new cleaning protocol. This includes cleaning all the counters, using gloves and requiring face masks, should a patient present with symptoms of any illness, such as a cold.
On a personal level, Dr. Hudson says he’ll likely pursue more online CE. “Although I do enjoy going to meetings to interact with my colleagues, I’ve really enjoyed the convenience and topics offered via online CE during the pandemic,” he says. “It’s great to be able to log on from home and get the education I need.”
William H. Stephen, O.D., who practices in Tampa, Fla., echoes Dr. Hudson’s desire to continue with his practice’s new cleaning protocols.
“We’re going to continue offering hand-sanitizing stations throughout the clinic, wiping down all counters and doorknobs twice a day — morning and afternoon shift — and disinfecting every frame in between patient use,” he explains. “We actually recently purchased a UVA box/sanitizer, which can disinfect 24 frames at a time, expediting the process.”
Also, Dr. Stephen says the practice will continue with online patient intake forms, will cease the use of community contact lens solution bottles in each exam room and will continue to provide pens customized with the practice’s logo.
“The online patient demographics and history forms, which now must be submitted prior to an appointment, reduce patient time in the practice and have created/improved staff efficiency,” he says. “In regard to the community contact lens solutions, we’ve replaced those with a model in which every patient receives their own sample kit. Finally, we’ve ordered and now provide pens with our logo and contact information, so each patient is given their own pen to use throughout their appointment. In addition to promoting cleanliness, the pens serve as a nice marketing tool.”
Dr. Stephen adds that the practice will likely continue with masks, when it comes to opticians and technicians operating certain equipment and for patients who present with any cold-like symptoms.
Stephen Montaquila, O.D., who practices in Warwick, R.I., says the business lesson he has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of scheduling downtime for assessing and improving processes. He now plans on meeting with staff quarterly for this.
“When we saw only emergencies and medical follow up that could not be delayed, we took advantage of that time to improve our processes; to look for inefficiencies in the office and to get caught up on items, such as billing and training,” he explains. “One big thing we did was to change our practice management software. So, the lesson in this for me is that downtime can be a good thing.” OM