COVID-19 has changed the healthcare profession forever, with practice owners feeling exposed to threats within and outside the clinic. The good news is that, with the right strategies, you can fly past competitors whose slow response time is crippling their ability to deal with issues as they arise.
STRATEGY ONE: Your stress-management system. One thing we all know, but rarely pay enough attention to, is the effect of stress upon our health & mental well-being. At a time when social media, mainstream media and even family or friends can be a source of overburdening bad news, it is all the more important to build a strong support system in your clinic. A true team has a tendency to come together when times are tough. This is a sign of a strong practice culture, and will lead to better productivity and less burnout. Foster healthy connections between employees using team meetings, bonus systems that reward team play, and public acknowledgement for employees who step up and represent your core values the most.
STRATEGY TWO: Bolster team morale. A team that has high morale feels confident. They tend to be more determined and self-starting, willing, and often display a courageous attitude toward seemingly impossible or difficult tasks. If this doesn’t describe your employees, you might have a morale problem.
Morale is bolstered first and foremost by productivity. An idle employee has low morale, and will often make trouble by wandering into other areas to disrupt work – or waste time ‘looking busy’ with little or nothing to show for it.
But belief in the aims of the group and faith in its leadership & ultimate success are the other factors to employee morale. Your own elan vital as a leader has enormous effect on whether they feel inspired to do their best, or see in your behavior an excuse to underperform.
The primary barrier to productivity in a clinic is a low emotional state, and reactions to your directives aimed at recovery. Whether hidden or overt, these put a barrier across the road that is best uncovered using the following strategy:
- Survey your team to find hidden or overt emotional reactions to your orders and directives
- Based on the results of the anonymous survey, isolate the biggest emotional response & reaction to the ideals, policies & orders of the clinic executives
- Formulate a plan to address the biggest issues
STRATEGY THREE: Doing It Like Kondo. Veterinary practices in 2020 are finding that the only barrier to expansion is how many hours fit into a day. When we see a practitioner or doctor maxing out their schedule and starting a waitlist for new patients or clients, we know it is time to take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book.
This Japanese organizing consultant, author, and TV show host is famous for her organizational skills. Her philosophy when uncluttering a space is to keep only those things that ‘spark joy’.
Similarly, when we see a practice hitting its production ceiling with no end in sight, we know it is time to declutter the processes and systems the practice is using.
Theoretically, the only ceiling a healthcare practice has is the one created when the clinic has grown beyond the owner’s ability to manage. The solution is to hire a trained office manager or middle managers, implement proven systems and take practice management off the owner/doctor’s plate so the practice can continue to expand.
STRATEGY FOUR: Even out cash flow. The pandemic continues to cause periods of low volume and pent-up demand, resulting in cash-flow problems for some practices. In coming months, patient volume may be higher at first due to pent-up demand, followed by steep dives in productivity from patient’s health & economic concerns. The thing to focus on is a strategy to even out your cash flow month-to-month.
Wellness plans, memberships and product sales are great ways to generate consistent income regardless of the pandemic. The optometric practice that takes its frames selection online, the veterinarian who incentivizes monthly payments on wellness plans, and the dentist who signs parents up for a child’s healthy-mouth membership – all are examples of workable strategies to prevent low cash-flow months.
STRATEGY FIVE: Wise Financial Systems. The practice owner who doesn’t know their make-break point is operating in an economically unsound manner. With the current climate, monthly assessment of what it truly takes to keep your lights on and doors open is a must. One system that is working well for practice owners is to set aside cash on a weekly basis to pay bills and other expenses. Regular financial planning amongst the owner and their manager is a much safer financial system than waiting until the end of the week to know which bills can be paid.
STRATEGY SIX: Compassionate Scripting. With everything 2020 has brought to bear upon humankind, never has there been a greater need for compassion & corporate social responsibility. In the US, communities in the midwest and along the eastern coast experienced hurricanes knocking out power for days or weeks. On the west coast, from Oregon to California an inferno rages – with Portland reporting the worst air quality in the world from forest fires.
How do you talk to patients or clients about making or keeping an appointment, when they are fearful, struggling or at best distracted from caring for their health or that of their pet?
Focus efforts on the 3Rs – Recall, Reactivation & Referrals. Write scripts for your front desk team to handle these unusual times. Direct patients to local volunteer hotlines. Call and ask them how they are doing, and how your clinic can best support them and their families in this difficult time. Ask for their help in return, by mentioning your referral program.
Help is at the center of compassion, and as the holidays of 2020 approach, we are all reminded of what we have lost, and what we have to gain by coming together to build a stronger, happier & healthier future for humankind.