As you read this, your practice might already be open or planning to open soon. Either way, things will likely look and feel different from three months ago when COVID-19 caused you to close.
Your reopening might be reminiscent of when you opened the practice’s doors for the very first time. Back then nothing was assured, the risk was high, and your entrepreneurial spirit to create something lasting and unique fueled you to where you are today. In order to thrive—not just survive—during this reopening period, you will have to draw on the same grit and determination you had when first starting your practice.
Opening Preparation Efforts
It’s well known there are no magic answers or shortcuts to business success. We believe these six considerations will get your practice back on the success track and prove valuable in the future.
1. Make staff a top priority
Your staff not only serves as your frontline but are the first customers you serve. They are your internal customers. It’s with them your patients (external customers) initially come into contact with and base their judgement of the practice. For your external customers to have a good experience and become your loyal patients of tomorrow, you must first take care of your staff. Instill confidence, optimism, and trust within your staff by doing the following:
- Be transparent. Communicate clearly about pre-opening and beyond. This will reassure staff who lack visibility into the inner workings of the business and eliminate any uncertainty surrounding the resiliency of the practice. Share the following information with staff:
- What the practice is doing to prepare for reopening.
- When they may be recalled to work if the practice has a target opening date.
- Your thoughts about reopening to help keep staff motivated, positive, and excited about the future.
- Host a one- to two-day “orientation” session to train and re-train employees prior to re-opening. For staff to hit the ground running and stay safe when the practice opens its doors, do the following:
- Establish and train on personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.
- Create safety guidelines for staff. Depending on the practice and its service offerings, this might look different from other practices. Reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, industry society recommendations, and social distancing protocols when establishing these safety guidelines. Involve staff in their creation by asking, “What aren’t we doing that we need to do to make you and our patients feel safe?” Once practice safety standards are established, make them available and easily accessible to all staff.
- Set clear expectations on duties. This is particularly important if employees are taking on additional responsibilities or new tasks, or a skeleton crew is running the office for the interim.
- Show your staff grace. Each team member’s office return timeline will be different. In fact, many might require additional time to transition back to work from the practice’s reopen date due to special circumstances. Be respectful of staff needs.
- Create a core team of excellence for the future. Build on the culture of excellence you have always strived for by reorienting staff, resetting mindsets, and encouraging team unity moving forward. Patients receiving top-notch customer care is more important than ever.
2. Analyze practice flow
Before reopening, have your staff perform the entire office visit process as if they were patients. Start from the beginning, with staff walking through the front door and considering where to put their belongings (e.g., purse and jacket), all the way to the end of the visit, evaluating how well the check-out process works. This will allow the practice to identify actions to take to create a safe, warm, and welcoming environment for patients. Items that might be identified include:
- Cleaning surfaces (in front of patients) as they move from one area of the practice to another.
- Creating a schedule template that respects social distancing by keeping patients out of the waiting room and being taken directly back to a treatment room (for immediately treatment).
- Staggering treatment times so patients always have a clean, separate area to wait for the provider.
Having your staff actively seek where you can elevate the patient experience while fostering a safe environment will give patients peace of mind that you have thought of everything.
3. Embrace virtual opportunities
Employ digital means to prepare your practice for reopening so you can hit the ground running and make the most of this opportunity. We recommend the following:
- Start advertising consultations now to help pre-book treatment appointments.
- Identify what can be done online in advance of patient appointments (e.g., booking, paperwork, pre-payment, checking in, online consultations, developing treatment plans). By taking advantage of digital opportunities, you can be more efficient during treatment appointments and minimize risk/unnecessary touchpoints.
- Tip: Have staff go through the virtual booking or online paperwork process to ensure there are no hiccups on the patient’s end. This might also reveal areas that can be streamlined or eliminated.
4. Be thoughtful on treatment offerings
Review your full list of treatment options against the current social and business climate. Analyzing your offerings this way will help you determine which treatments to offer when you initially reopen. Considerations include:
- What are your most popular treatments? What treatments have patients expressed interest in over the past few weeks based on online traffic, phone calls, and virtual consultations? (Tip: Try posting a survey on social media to gauge interest and build excitement.)
- What is the availability of your providers and treatment rooms in the near future?
- Are there skincare products offered by the practice that can serve as an effective treatment or treatment plan?
- Are there any treatments that might not be appropriate under social distancing protocols (e.g., full-face microdermabrasions or plasma-rich protein facials)?
- What are your most profitable procedures? Do a quick cost analysis to see what your true profitability is for each treatment. Don’t discount yourself to your own detriment. Remember, the price to patients is only a priority in the absence of quality and value.
5. Monitor finances and cash flow closely
This is where the rubber meets the road. In order to stay in business—especially in this tough economic time—we cannot stress enough that you need to carefully monitor the practice’s expenses and revenue. We recommend:
- Monitoring upcoming accounts payable (A/P), payroll, and overhead costs against income (in other words, the practice’s cash flow).
- Bringing staff back into the office in a thoughtful way, ensuring the practice has patient volumes and enough work to support payroll costs.
- Forecasting and planning revenue goals that align with patient volume. If revenue is uncertain or you are seeing erratic appointments, try setting your goal based on a percentage greater than your overhead expenses to ensure the practice is at least breaking even.
- Minimizing unnecessary cost, but ensure there is adequate stock/inventory to sustain patient volume.
- Considering pre-paid packaging of services to provide additional cash flow and secure future appointments. For instance, consider packaging a facial with injectables or treatments of three together. When doing so, be sure to account for these liabilities so you have an accurate understanding of your overall financial health.
6. Keep adapting
It seems every day is different, with our situation constantly changing and evolving. This requires you to continue adapting and flexing for the sake of your business. Keep a pulse on this ever-changing situation by:
- Creating an ongoing feedback loop. At the beginning or end of each day, ask your frontline staff the following questions: “What do we need to be doing? What is your No. 1 takeaway from the patient experience?”
- Checking in with patients regularly while being observant of any shifts or changes in perception. Use this knowledge to quickly react and help anticipate any other patient needs.
- Staying up to date on the latest federal and state COVID-19 regulations.
A Brighter Horizon
We are in uncharted waters, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can be doing to set your business up for success. Our recommendations are foundational in nature; they are the basics you should be doing to adapt and flex to our new landscape. By following them, you’re building your business for a better tomorrow—one that can thrive in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic and in the years to come