Practice Management

The Bright Side of COVID-19 Practice Slowdowns

By Steven Turpin, OD, MS

March 25, 2020

Come December, “unprecedented” will likely be the most often used word around the world. Even though the term has become an instant cliche, it rings true. The circumstances created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically affected every industry in nearly every country across the globe.

For optometrists, a number of governing bodies in various countries have asked doctors to close their doors and more widespread closures are likely around the corner. Some practice owners have voluntarily closed to help curb the spread of the virus.

For those clinics that stay open, the long-term impacts on the economy are sure to have downstream effects and reduce patient flow. All signs point to rough roads ahead. But if we change our frame of mind, there are opportunities to do things we didn’t think were possible before. In the words of Rahm Emanuel, “No good crisis should go to waste.”

Take a step back to take a stock of your practice
During the busy times, the day-to-day (and even hour-to-hour) issues that come up are enough to fill a 25-hour day. A slow down in patient flow (government enforced or organic) can release some of the pressure to continue operating on all cylinders. Taking advantage of an opportunity to reflect on current policies and procedures can help clinical efficiency when things pick back up again. Never was there a better time to update those patient education handouts you made 10 years ago.

Consider new instrumentation
It probably feels like the exact wrong time to take a closer look at that new OCT or topographer you’ve had your eye on. But just like you, the manufacturers are feeling the squeeze too. They may be more inclined to work with you, especially since “exhibit hall discounts” have disappeared as a result of meeting cancellations.

A slower clinic also gives you time to train staff and implement the instrument. And don’t worry about not being able to reach customer service, they are still working from home.

Keep an eye out for new hires
Let’s face it, there are certain facts about the economy. When times are good and unemployment is low, potential employee quality is lower relative to times when more people are looking for work.

Obviously, you can’t go out and start hiring if the numbers don’t justify it, but it may be worth paying extra attention if you had a hiring on your to-do list six months ago and haven’t done it yet. The individual with skills you’re looking for may just have been laid off.

Catch up on education
With all the continuing education meetings being cancelled for the foreseeable future, you will see a bump in webinars and other online resources. Take advantage of them. Making sure you’re up to date on standard-of-care treatments only helps to benefit you and your patients when business picks up again.

 

Steven Turpin, OD, MS, practices at Cascadia Eye, an ophthalmology-based practice with multiple locations in the Seattle, Wash.,area. He is a graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry, where is also served a residency in cornea and contact lenses. To contact him: stevent@ncascade.com

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