15 Things Optometrists (and Small Business Owners) Can Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Updated: May 3
As of March 16th, 2020, the CDC has advised us to postpone routine dental and eye care visits until further notice. As a result, we'll all be spending a lot more time at home as we practice social distancing to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Fortunately, we all have things on our to-do list that never get done. In this article, I'll review 15 things optometrists (and other non-essential health care providers) can do during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a call to action (CTA) for each.
1) Volunteer in your community
If there is a way that you can safely help support others in your community, do it! As we approach the COVID-19 peak, there will be times when we need to have all hands on deck.
CTA - Look into volunteer opportunities in your community (if you can safely do so).
2) Build a personal brand
Building a personal brand can help open up doors during and after the COVID-19 pandemic calms down. The first step in this process is creating professional accounts on social media. Personally, I've created professional accounts on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. I also have friends that have Facebook pages, podcasts, and their own professional websites.
Next, make a list of personal branding goals, update your headshot (it's easy to do yourself in 2020) and start brainstorming content ideas. From there, start developing content that aligns with your goals. I can honestly say this is a fun activity that has really helped build my personal and professional networks.
CTA - Create a professional account on the platforms listed above and map out a content strategy. Also, check out this video where Dr. Harbir Sian and I spoke about this topic at length.
3) Evaluate your external marketing strategy
Social media is a fantastic way to update and further connect with your patients. If you haven't already done so, make sure to create a practice account for all platforms listed above. Also, don't forget to create an account on Google My Business and Yelp for Business Owners.
Next, plan for the future by creating a list of content ideas and an implementation strategy. This can all be done using apps like Buffer, Hootsuite, CoSchedule, and Hubspot. All of these apps are great tools that I've used personally and professionally.
Furthermore, develop an email or text message campaign that notifies your patient on important updates, including when you plan on reopening your office for non-essential patient care. This will keep them in the loop and help drive traffic to your practice so you can hit the ground running!
CTA - Get your practice on social media and draw up a content strategy. Bonus points if you're able to put together an email or text message campaign to communicate with your patients.
4) Revisit your practice website
When was the last time you took a good look at your practice website? For most of us, it's probably been a while. My recommendation, evaluate your website, page by page. Do any pages or blog posts need updating? Is everything optimized for organic search? Are your headshots, professional bios, products, and services up to date? Are there specific topics you'd like to cover that can drive traffic to your site? Take the time to do these things now.
If you don't manage your own website, reach out to who does and see if they can help. You can always use Google Docs to outline content updates and email them over to your website administrator to publish live. Or, if you're willing to learn, see if they can provide you with access to the platform you use (i.e. WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) and make these updates yourself.
CTA - Spend 30 minutes browsing your practice website and write down areas that need improvement.
5) Use video calls to stay connected
The longer we practice social distancing, the more we'll crave social connection. In fact, as of writing this, I've been homebound for 5 days and have already been on 3 group video calls. The beauty is these calls can easily be done from your home and connect you with one or multiple people.
Outside of FaceTime, the platform I use the most is Zoom. It provides simplified video conferencing and messaging across any device and is free to use for video chats up to 40 minutes. I prefer FaceTime for one on one video chat and Zoom for groups of 3 or more.
Remember, we're all in this together! As a result, it's in our best interested to stay (virtually) connected while doing so.
CTA - Schedule a video call to further connect with friends, family, or colleagues.
6) Chip away at your accounts receivable
If your accounts receivable is at zero, you can skip this one. For the rest of us, there is always work to be done to capture unpaid claims or invoices. Plus, insurance companies are still open.
CTA - Spend an hour a day working on your accounts receivable.
7) Evaluate your payment options
Unfortunately, a closed office doesn't mean the bills stop. Look at every bill you get and reach out to the respective company to see if payments can be temporarily decreased or deferred.
In regards to 2019 taxes, the filing deadline and payment due date have been extended to 7/15/20. If you have federal student loans, there is good news! You can now suspend payments for at least 2 months and interest that accrues is waived for at least 60 days. This allows you to temporarily stop payments without worrying about accruing interest. Since we don't know how long this pandemic will last, both of these might be further extended.
Note: Since this article was published, federal student loan payments and interest have been suspended for 6 months!
Also, cut back on unnecessary personal spending and cancel any subscription plans you signed up for but rarely use (we all have them).
CTA - Review your personal and professional expenses and act accordingly.
8) Maximize gift card and contact lens sales
As long as you have remote access to your medical records, you can process contact lens sales from home. First, pull 3 months of patients a year from the date you closed that were fit with contact lenses (so if you closed March 20th, 2020 then pull patients from March 20th, 2019 - June 20th, 2019). Next, send them an email blast providing them with the opportunity to reorder contact lenses during the pandemic. If they reply back, give them a call or send them a quote (we use Lensquote) so they can make an informed purchasing decision. Also, let them know this is a chance to support a local business while closed, something people are looking to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another way your patients can support you is through the purchase of gift cards for future products or services. This can be advertised through an email blast, on your website, and on social media.
CTA - Email your patients to let them know you're still selling gift cards and contact lenses (and post about this on social media too).
9) Implement telemedicine
Telemedicine can be used to remotely provide (limited) medical eye care to your patients. Through secure video chat or messaging platforms, you can still provide care to your patients while practicing social distancing.
Two platforms to look into are EyecareLive and Doxy.me. Both of these platforms are secure and HIPPA compliant. EyecareLive is an eye care specific start-up that has robust functionality while Doxy.me is a freemium based product that is marketed for all health care professionals.
10) Revisit your business plan
First and foremost, if you don't have a business plan, now is the time to make one. Even if you have an established practice, a business plan is your roadmap to future success, especially during this unprecedented time.
Remotely work with your team to evaluate if your practice still aligns with your vision and mission statements. Also, consider how COVID-19 will impact your business moving forward. What steps are you taking to ensure you'll hit the ground running once patient care is safe to resume?
CTA - Review your business plan with your team and make changes for future success.
11) Develop a reputation management strategy
Have you evaluated your online reputation lately? Whether you like it or not, 77% of patients read online reviews before booking an appointment with a doctor. As a result, it's in your best interest to pay attention to and proactively manage your online reputation.
First, pull up your practice on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp for Business Owners. Next, take the time to read and reply to every patient review (even the negative ones). Doing so gives you perspective on how others are evaluating their experience at your practice and how you can improve care. Furthermore, replying to every review allows you to thank patients that provided positive reviews and tell your side of the story for negative reviews that were out of your control. If you received a negative review where you or your staff were at fault, own up to it, apologies, and promise to do better.
Our office recently signed up for Doctible to increase the quality and quantity of our online reviews. Their reputation management software integrates with our EHR and sends patients a text message the day after their appointment requesting feedback on their experience. Since doing so, we've doubled our reviews at our established office and went from 5 to 70 reviews at our new office - all in less than 4 months! Honestly, Doctible has really helped drive patients into our office and is something I highly recommend looking into.
12) Explore consulting opportunities
Outside of patient care, we all have unique and valuable skillsets. With this in mind, your particular experience could open up a number of remote consulting opportunities.
First, create a profile on consulting websites like Coleman, AlphaSights, Third Bridge, and GLG. Next, upload your resume and outline your professional strengths. Many of these companies have existing projects that you can apply for right away. If they don't, hang tight. All of these companies have team members that will contact you if your skillset aligns with consulting opportunities that present over time.
CTA - Create and complete a consulting profile on the sites listed above.
13) Be kind and optimistic
In times of crisis, it's easy to be rude and pessimistic. Furthermore, the stress and strain it causes can lead to anxiety, depression, and a generally negative disposition. This is exactly the opposite of what we all need right now.
Instead, send kind, encouraging messages to those that you know are struggling. Inject positivity in a negative conversation that is happening on social media. Post daily inspirational thoughts that others can benefit from.
CTA - Be kind, optimistic, and the change that you want to see in the world during this challenging time.
14) Practice self-care
This is a very stressful time so don't beat yourself up! Now more than ever, practicing self-care is critical. Here are a couple of ways to take care of yourself during this challenging time:
Practice mindfulness using meditation apps. Two of my favorites are Calm and Headspace (which is now free for healthcare providers in 2020). Also, Ten Percent Happier is offering 6 months free for healthcare workers.
Run outdoors (if permitted).
CTA - Do at least one thing each day to practice self-care.
15) Spend time with your family
Last, but certainly not least, spend time with your family! As a man of faith, I feel this pandemic is God's way of telling us to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. While social distancing is the only thing most of us can control, spending time with your direct family and connecting virtually with your extended family is a great way to spend your time at home. Love each other with no regard and pray for better days ahead.
CTA - Stay in the moment and embrace the extra family time.
I hope this article got your wheels turning on ways to provide value to your personal and professional life while practicing social distancing. Together, we will all get through this! If you have any other ideas, please feel free to recommend them in the comments below.