I don’t know about you, but I’ve been glued to the news and sitting in unsettling uncertainty about the near-term impacts of the Coronavirus that is massively upending our economy and national life. Not to mention trying to get work done at home while my working wife and I figure out how to be homeschool parents under a multi-week stay at home order. At least spring is coming into bloom in Atlanta, GA.
Most practice owners I work with are either completely closed or limited to only taking emergent calls and dispensing contact lens re-orders for now. At the time of this writing, The CARES act is still being debated in Congress, so it’s not clear what kind of federal relief is going to be available to help small businesses get through the coming weeks (or months), or when that relief will arrive.
Whether you’ve kept your team or furloughed them, with any luck an SBA bridge loan will be on the way to help you re-hire or keep your teams on at the time you’re reading this. So, if your practice is going to have a dramatically reduced patient and staff presence, how can you make the most of your newfound free time?
For anyone who’s not swamped caring for kids who are home from school, training and projects are the order of the day. Look for virtual and remote training (no need to bring potentially infected reps or team members into your office). A few ideas for things to look for or to put on for your staff (with a video conference service, for instance):
Customer service, with case studies from your practice
Lens options and benefits
Frame rep training on the ‘story’ of each collection
Refresh on what each instrument in your office does
How to speak ‘optometry’: correct terminology for ocular anatomy, diagnostic equipment, and clinical procedures
Give your team money to order online glasses (at a $100-$150 price point and a sub-$50 price point), insist your team wear them, and report back on the relative value compared to your practice’s mid- and high-end eyewear
See if your lab will comp you some lenses in mid-tier materials with mid-tier A/R for your staff to try out as well, and compare to high-end lenses
Clean up your practice management software and EHR
Take pictures and/or video for your website and social media, both of your physical space (if you’re in the office) and of you and your team (even from home!)
Build out a planogram for your optical and plan improvements to your visual merchandising and frame mix
Revamp your spectacle lens packages
For doctor owners:
Self-audit your insurance claims and EOBs, and get better at coding and managing receivables
Review your pricing and product packages through various vision care plans
Clean up your financial statements and revamp your chart of accounts
Beef up your training manuals and procedures
Work on you!
Go to the gym garage and work out!
Take a walk in the woods or go for a bike ride
Read a good book, maybe during a warm bath
Even if you and your team are stuck at home, take this time to do all the things you would have done except that “we’ve all been so busy!”
I believe the biggest challenge for all of us is to figure out what we can control in these times and protect against what we either don’t know or can’t control. We don’t know how wide Coronavirus will spread, how much it will tax our healthcare system, or how long the crisis endures, nor can we control those things.
Once we get through this, independent optometry will still be in the same strong position it held before this started: a limited number of providers serving a growing population of patients with an ever-increasing scope of practice and exciting new technologies and solutions to help our patients see better and live better lives.
Take this time to make sure you and your team are well prepared to hit the ground running when we all get back to work. My best wishes for your future success, and all of our ongoing health and safety.
Coronavirus Resources + Updates
For up-to-date information on coronavirus, including prevention tips and resources for optometrists, visit our website.
Nathan Hayes is the Practice Finance Consultant for IDOC. He is a 10-year veteran of the eyecare industry, working at HMI Buying Group and Red Tray, Prima Eye Group from its inception and now IDOC. In his current role, Nathan helps OD practice owners manage their overhead, grow practice revenues and profits, and maximize their personal income, free time, and professional satisfaction. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.