By Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD,
and Jessica Licausi, OD, FAAO, FCOVD
April 29, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis forced the shutdown of routine eyecare on practice owners. Our practice, which has vision therapy as its niche, has taken the approach of trying to stay ahead of the crisis.
We Closed Down Earlier Than We Had To
To protect our staff and patients, we decided to temporarily close our office as of March 17. We came to this decision on the earlier side, prior to patients starting to cancel or no-show to their appointments. We wanted to make a conscious effort to stave off the spread of this virus between ourselves and our patients. The nature of our care for our vision therapy patients required intensive disinfection of all vision therapy equipment between each session.
We were as conscious as possible to limit patient contact with equipment, however this required a lot of modification in therapy sessions. While we provide an important service to our vision therapy patients, it became evident to us that staying open could potentially compromise our care and the health of our patients. As mandates for closures were announced, and optometry was deemed a non-essential service, we made the difficult decision to remain closed, but have communicated to our patients that we are available via phone and e-mail should an emergency/question about their care arise.
We Laid Off Employees; But Plan to Rehire Them
We decided to temporarily layoff our staff, and suggested they apply for unemployment benefits. As soon as we reopen we plan to re-hire all of our staff members. We have been in contact with our employees throughout our quarantine and plan to implement weekly virtual meetings to stay in touch and keep them updated on our office plans.
Initially We Tried Rescheduling Rather Than Just Cancelling
We initially reached out to our scheduled patients and re-scheduled their appointments to two weeks from our closure date. As COVID-19 updates evolved it became clear that the office would unfortunately be closed for longer than we originally anticipated. After being closed for a week, we contacted patients and re-scheduled them all to May with the caveat that if we opened prior to this then appointments could be moved earlier.
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We decided this was the least time consuming option; as opposed to contacting patients each week and constantly rescheduling. We sent out a mass e-mail to our entire patient base letting them know the status of the office closure and how to reach us if needed. We have made efforts to be as active as possible on social media to keep our patient base engaged and remind them that we are still here to serve any optometric needs that arise. We have also been taking this time to educate our social media community on activities that work on visual skills that parents can practice with their children while social distancing.
Asked For Help From Business & Eyecare Industry Vendors
We have found great support from companies that we owe regular monthly payments to. We reached out to all of our credit card lenders, and were able to enter into “deferment” periods where only the minimum payment will be due with no accrued interest for a period of 60 days. Our landlord has also been extremely understanding and is allowing us to defer our monthly rent payment with no additional interest or fees until our office is reopened. This reduction in our monthly financial responsibilities gives us a little breathing room given the reduced cash flow coming in.
How We Communicated Our Office Closure & Availability of Telemedicine
Our office closure e-mail:
OFFICE CLOSING UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!
Twin Forks Optometry will be closing for normal operations until further notice amid all that is going on with COVID-19. We have come to this decision for the safety of our patients and our staff.
We will be monitoring the situation closely and will keep everyone informed of when we are back to normal operating hours.
We WILL be accessible by phone during this time (631-740-9384) for any ocular emergencies, questions or concerns regarding your care.
Please be safe, stay home and wash your hands!
Drs. Zilnicki & Licausi
Our e-mail alerting patients to telemedicine option:
We hope this email finds you and your family safe and healthy. Due to COVID-19 and us having to close the office, we have diligently been working on how to continue caring for our patients. Fortunately in the past week the government has lifted many restrictions with telemedicine, which is going to allow us the opportunity to stay connected and guide you through the next few weeks to ensure we do not lose any progress in your visual skills that we’ve been working so hard on improving!
This will be going through your insurance company, with no obligation for copays or deductibles. The virtual visit can take place on FaceTime, Skype, or even Google. If you are interested in setting up an appointment to talk with one of the doctors, go over symptoms or even review your home therapy we are here for you.
Looking forward to connecting with you!
Drs. Licausi & Zilnicki
Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD, and Jessica
Licausi, OD, FAAO, FCOVD, are co-owners of Twin Forks Optometry and Vision Therapy in Riverhead, NY.
To contact Dr. Zilnicki: DrZilnicki@twinforksoptometry.com.
To contact Dr. Licausi: DrLicausi@twinforksoptometry.com