There has hardly been an industry or business spared the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Industries that typically wouldn’t significantly see the effects of an economic downturn have during this global crisis, and that includes medical practices and health care professionals.
There are two ways that governments and health officials typically deal with pandemics. The first is mitigation, and the second is suppression.
With mitigation, there is the use of medicines which can include drugs and vaccines. That doesn’t stop transmission completely but can reduce the effects of a pandemic. The goal with mitigation is that you’re eventually able to get herd immunity from the virus and it perhaps eventually it can even die out.
With suppression, which is what most places throughout the world followed with the coronavirus, the goal is to reduce the number of transmissions and reproductions of cases by cutting human-to-human transmission.
That is the basis of social distancing.
With that being said, social distancing called for an elimination of not only non-essential activities such as dining at restaurants but also non-essential surgeries and medical care.
That has led many small medical practices to have to significantly cut down on how many patients they see, and some have closed down altogether during this time.
It is having a massive financial impact on these small medical practices, and the following are some things they should know and do as social distancing requirements start to be lifted and businesses start to rebuild.
Market to Make Patients Feel Comfortable
There are medical practices that have stayed operational throughout the coronavirus pandemic, although they may have shifted their focus exclusively toward patients with possible covid-19 cases, and then there are practices that maybe limited their hours or services during this time.
Regardless of which camp your practice falls into, you are likely facing revenue shortfalls.
As you think about reopening or returning to a sense of normalcy, you’re going to have to consider an approach that’s similar to other types of businesses because ultimately, that’s what your practice is—a business.
Every business right now is having to think about how they connect with customers and how they market in a way that’s sensitive to the situation at hand and also instills a sense of confidence.
As is the case with all businesses right now, make sure you’re communicating often with your patients.
Let them know what’s going on, what your plans are going forward, and the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.
You should also reiterate plans for how you handle suspected covid cases.
Even though there are a lot of states reopening right now and a general sense that the worst is behind us with coronavirus, there is still fear, apprehension, and in some cases hysteria often driven by misinformation.
As you’re creating new marketing materials for your practice, be proactive, and be a voice that’s calm and measured for your patients, and provides them with factual information and resources.
Send out newsletters and Facebook tips to help people stay safe and know what’s currently going on with the pandemic.
Even if your practice has been almost fully operational during this time, there is a lot of fear people feel about going to the doctor’s office, and many people are avoiding them at all costs. That is a big driver of the financial crisis so many of these businesses are facing.
Train Your Employees
As your practice is moving forward, if your employees and patients don’t feel safe, you’re never going to be able to make up for potential revenue shortfalls.
Make training your employees on the best practices for infection control a pivotal part of not only your actual operations but also communication with your patients.
Your staff will need refreshers on not only infection control parties but the use of personal protective equipment too.
Ensure that you’re following the most updated available CDC guidelines, which have information about not just training your staff, but also how to screen patients for covid-19 before their appointments.
You’ll likely want to set up separate entrance and exit doors if that’s feasible in your practice, which will help limit the contact patients have with one another.
Apply for a Line of Credit
If your practice doesn’t already have a line of credit, from a financial standpoint, it could be the right time to apply.
It’s really important to keep your business afloat, and with SBA loans exhausted, having a line of credit may be the only way you keep yourself from going out of business.
You should also think about contacting your vendors and asking if you can negotiate your payment terms, because they, like everyone else, will likely understand given the current situation.
Some professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, may be able to help you or point you in the right direction.
For example, the AAFP is asking congress to establish a 24-month loan program for independent and small practices that is interest-free.
The AAFP is also asking for provisions to require Medicaid to provide rates of reimbursement on par with Medicare, and they’ve asked for granting funding that would allow for the purchase of needed telehealth equipment.
Something else that’s worth looking into for doctors is interruption insurance coverage. If you had to close your practice because of covid-19, your business interruption insurance might take effect.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of your staff and their morale right now.
It’s been a very challenging time for everyone, and you should recognize how your staff is potentially feeling. They may be nervous financially or about their health, and if you want your practice to be able to weather the storm, you have to show your employees that you do value them, and you understand the stress they’re feeling.
If there is the potential that you might have to cut staff, then talk with them openly and honestly and see if they have any other solutions to suggest.