As COVID-19 keeps the office closed, staying connected to patients and scenario planning for the post-pandemic are key to getting your practice back on its feet when restrictions lift.
The current crisis has stripped away control of how we conduct business, function as consumers and socialize. In situations in which we face a lack of control, psychology experts say we need to look for choices, and right now that means scenario planning today to get your practice back on its feet when restrictions lift in the future.
As Coronavirus keeps the practice closed, physicians want to know when they should be rescheduling in-office appointments, and whether it’s better to start sooner than later.
Randolph Waldman, M.D., facial plastic surgeon, Lexington, Ky., says that it’s better to start sooner than you think, but understand that reopening may be a moving target.
“We're basically scheduling after April 15, but we're also telling patients that obviously we're not the ones necessarily in control of how that works,” Dr. Waldman says.“I don't see the point in scheduling in June or July.”
Aesthetic practice management and marketing expert Catherine Maley agrees, cautioning physicians, however, to reschedule wisely.
“It's always best to have the patient on the schedule and then have to change it than not to have them on the schedule at all,” she says. “Psychologically, they will stay more connected to the practice when there is a future action. However, I would not change their appointment too many times, so tread lightly.”
Once the practice reopens, its then time to think about demand.
For Dr. Waldman, he’s preparing for an initially heightened demand on services.
“I think the first two or three months are going to be pent up demand,” he says. “As soon as we can reopen, it's going to be all hands-on deck, and we're probably going to work on Saturdays to catch up.”
While planning for the future of the physical practice, Maley suggest that you take the extra time self-quarantined and social distancing to implement virtual consultations, while also learning new internet marketing strategies and ways to engage with your patients through technology.
In a video published by the Aesthetic Authority, Maley explains how to keep your patients involved in the practice, despite being unable to be there in person.
Virtual consultations have become the go-to method for continuing seeing patients safely, she says. While some physicians do this through Facetime, others are using online conferencing services, like Zoom or Skype.
Maley offers several recommendations for establishing virtual consultation:
Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are free social networking websites that are filled with multiple opportunities to engage with current and potential patients.
Instagram in particular is popular in the aesthetic specialty due to the ability to create video stories of procedures, live streams, and before and after photos, along with giving your patients an insight into your personality, and personal interests, all in a highly visual way.
Many physicians are also inviting their colleagues to virtually drop into live videos with them using the platform, creating playful and fun learning opportunities.
Case-in-point, last week facial plastic surgeon Mike Nayak, M.D., hosted a Cosmetic Cocktail Hour on Instagram with co-host Christian Prada, M.D., both of whom are based in St. Louis, Mo.
They created a forum in which two surgeons were available to patients, showing a side of themselves not normally seen in the more formal office setting. In fact, they pointed out to viewers that it normally takes weeks or months for patients to have an opportunity to see the doctors to have specific questions answered.
Drs. Nayak, joined by wife Avani, and Prada talked nose, breasts, incision placement, microbotox, Coolsculpting and more. It was an interactive forum they used to educate, motivate, inspire, and build relationships.
Conversation was salt and peppered with the personal: what wine they were drinking, what conditioner Avani uses. They polled the viewers to ask for levels of self-isolation, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is not isolating at all and 5 is not leaving the house for any reason.
Existing patients also shared accolades, real-time 5-star ratings, with an engaged audience — an example of the best kind of marketing you don’t have to pay for.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”
We couldn’t agree more.