How to keep your practice’s future secure while staying connected with patients
The U.S. now has more confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) than any other country. Not only is the global pandemic presenting new public health challenges daily, it also is forcing medical practices into uncharted territory. How can doctors stay connected to their patients during this time? How can you continue to provide care and services to patients? How can small or solo practices, like other small businesses, weather this crisis and prepare for the future?
Here are several strategies to keep serving patients now and ensure that your practice stays viable as things begin to stabilize.
What you can do now
While your practice may have suspended routine care, reassure patients in your messaging that these changes are only temporary and you are still available to them. Patients still need things like prescription refills and additional contact lenses. Make these services available on your website, promote them on social media and via email, and make sure your phone message includes instructions for how patients can request refills without coming into the office.
Reach out to contact lens patients to let them know you offer patient-friendly policies and savings that online retailers don’t.
Your contact lens patients may be tempted to order from 1-800-CONTACTS or another online retailer if they need more supplies. Reach out to your patients to reassure them that even though your practice may have suspended routine appointments for now, you’re still there to meet their contact lens needs. Let them know that as an eye care provider, you have access to rebates and savings that online retailers may not.
Share the video, “Why Buy a Year’s Supply (of contact lenses),” to help patients understand the benefits of buying in bulk—cost, convenience, and compliance. They may choose to order now to alleviate future concerns. Also let patients know if your practice has an “open box policy,” so if they did make the mistake of ordering the wrong lenses from an online retailer, you will exchange those lenses for them at a later date when your office reopens.
Encourage patients to schedule future appointments
While your appointments for routine care may temporarily be on hold, there are things you can do right now in order to stay top of mind with these patients and motivate them to schedule appointments so that you have a full schedule when normal business operations resume.
Identify your patients who are candidates for cataract surgery and invite them to do a phone or video consultation now to learn more about their options. If you have the staff, offer this service as a one-on-one consultation. If not, consider hosting a webinar for patients. This is the perfect opportunity to use Rendia’s Outcome Simulator to show patients their options and the benefits of each.
Do the same with postponed or prospective LASIK patients. Follow up by emailing them this video after the consultation.
Reach out to prospective patients or those whose procedures have been postponed to encourage them to schedule future appointments.
When you or your staff talk to patients, use language like “postpone” or “reschedule” rather than “cancel.” Encourage them to schedule a future appointment now. Even if your timeline may be uncertain, it’s better to get something in the books now so that patients don’t feel abandoned and seek care elsewhere. If you don’t offer online appointment requests or scheduling, now is the time to do so to encourage immediate action. If your EHR or patient portal doesn’t offer online scheduling, there are services such as Zocdoc that, for a monthly fee, allow practices to offer online appointments on your own website as well as on the company’s site.
By building your appointment and procedure pipeline even if you aren’t seeing patients in the office, you are planting the seeds for future stability for your practice. At the same time, you are keeping the lines of communication open and active with your patients. This boosts their trust in you and primes them to take action when they’re ready.
Foster a small-business mindset
Many people are realizing just how vital small businesses are to their everyday life, and are rallying to support local businesses through this crisis, including small or solo medical practices.
Many people prefer to support locally owned small businesses, including medical practices. Foster those sentiments by showing appreciation for your patients in your communications.
Foster this feel-good sentiment towards small businesses by showing appreciation for your patients during this time. On your website, social media, and in your other communications, share messages like, “We’re so grateful to serve this community. We value our longtime relationships with patients. Especially in times like this, we’re here for you and we look forward to seeing you again soon.”
Focus your patient communications and marketing on what you can provide that online retailers can’t. Many patients—especially millennials—would prefer to support a locally owned small business rather than a multinational corporation. Providing excellent customer service, educating patients, and forming an ongoing relationship between patients and a trusted medical provider are all things that you can continue to do, even during this crisis.
Don’t panic; be proactive. Take steps to help your patients now and set your practice up for success, whatever the future holds. We can help.