In hindsight, the Covid-19 pandemic caught us off guard and we were not prepared for it. Humankind scrambled to find ways to respond to all the random problems we were assaulted with, and some people coped better than others.
Being held in captivity (isolation and lockdown) was definitely very difficult for most people, so we had to find ways to cope, and that has taught us many lessons and pushed us in new directions. We found Zoom, Webex, Skype, texting, etc. to help us reach out and be in communication in new ways. We learned to stockpile toilet paper, water, masks, gloves, food, sterilization products and so on. We learned to stay away from others … at least 6 feet and no hugging. By missing the personal contact with friends and family we came to appreciate the value of that contact.
Practices Caught Short
Because there was basically no warning, most practices got caught short in many ways when it came time to reopen. The urgent need for PPE, the staff issues and the shortage of funds has made life in the practice a challenge for many.
Here are some thoughts on how to be prepared in case of a second or third wave. It’s like making an evacuation plan in case of an emergency and then hoping you never need it.
PPE has been available almost forever but not in the required quantity under these circumstances. While that has been remedied for the most part, the cost has tripled and quadrupled as a result of the pandemic. For a mask that used to cost $1.00, you may now have to pay $5.00. And so on. If there is a second wave of Covid-19, one can expect the prices may go up even higher and there may be another shortage.
The answer is to get a good supply in reserve right now. Some of our clients have put away a 2-month supply. Stockpiled items will not be wasted money as you will eventually use them one way or another. But you are prepared!
Staff Issues – Kids Needing Care
Many practices experienced staff issues that created havoc with their re-opening process and the servicing of their patients. One of the main issues was for staff who have children and yet the schools and the daycares were shut down. Because there was no warning, most parents were not prepared with alternative methods of childcare.
What arrangements can you make in case we are shut down again? One such solution for some was to ask local high school students that they knew or were friends with to help care for their children during the workdays. Some staff got their spouse to be the one at home with the kids because their job could be done from home. And others had parents who would watch their grandchildren. To be prepared for the future, you could make a point of meeting and interviewing the high school or university students in your area so you have their names and phone numbers, just in case.
Staff Issues – New Protocols
While practices for the most part have always been a little more clean and safe than many other types of offices, now they MUST be very sterile and there are many rules and guidelines to follow.
Are your staff fully trained and meticulous in following the guidelines? Are they keeping sharp and on their toes in carrying out the steps now required with sterilization and distancing, etc. This needs to become second nature so we don’t go through being caught flat-footed again.
Are the staff well trained at putting patients at ease about coming into the practice? This can take a bit of role-playing to deal with the different kinds of patient responses. You could do “secret shopper” calls to your office or better yet, have a friend do it, and pretend to be a nervous shopper to see how well trained your staff are and if any improvements or coaching needs to be done.
Most practices survived the lockdown though many were in sadly depleted states and it will take quite some time to recover from 3 months lost income. Government handouts may not be possible if we have a second wave of Covid-19.
So, what can you do to prepare? From now till December (when most patients insurance rolls over), start getting patients in now who need work done so you don’t jam your schedule at the end of the year. Fill the schedule now and these can be your busiest and most profitable months. If a patient has work that needs to be done for ideal care for that person, be sure to invite them in now.
Chase up all those overdue patients, as well as those who should be reactivated (i.e. who haven’t been in the practice for a year or more). Make your schedule full from now till the end of year’s festivities. End off 2020 in the best possible financial condition.
The biggest lesson learned is to be prepared by building a cash cushion in case you need to fall back on it to pay bills if shut down again. Alternatively, pay down your LOC first so you have a well to go to.
That is a famous motto: Be Prepared! And it couldn’t apply more under the current circumstances we are living through. Do well and stay safe.