Showing Patients It's Safe to Come Back
As restrictions on routine eye care lifted in my state, the question was no longer, “Can we reopen?”, but rather, “How do we reopen?” Like many of you, we were anxious to return to providing comprehensive care to our patients. But no matter where your state may be in regards to opening, the real issue is whether people want to come. Ultimately the patient decides whether or not you’re open, not the regulation. So, the real challenge becomes reassuring your patients that it’s safe to come back.
During the closure, I went into the office every day, trying to think of different ways we could deliver care so that people not only felt safe, but actually were safe. I walked through the office with my staff, replicating the patient experience from start to finish, and modified things that just didn’t look right to me in our current environment. Starting in the lobby, it didn’t seem wise to have a sofa and several chairs back to back, so, we got rid of the sofa and half of the chairs. From there, we went through each room, looking at our surroundings through the eyes of a patient, and thinking about what we could do to make each scenario feel safer. We moved and removed furniture, installed plexiglass shields, added signage, implemented new cleaning processes, and reworked the entire traffic flow to minimize contact. By the time we got the green light to reopen, we were ready to safely see patients.
Then came the challenge of telling patients it was safe to come to our practice. We could tell our patients over and over about all of the precautions we were taking, but I wanted to show them. So, I picked up my phone and made a quick video. It’s not fancy or formal; the content isn’t earth-shattering or exciting. It’s simply me, walking through the office, saying, “OK, we're doing this, we're doing that. We're putting up plexiglass and wearing gloves; we’re washing the glasses after they’re tried on.” My kids showed me how to upload the video to YouTube, and a few days before we opened, I emailed the link to my patients and posted it on Facebook.
The response was incredible. People said the video made them feel like our office was safe to visit; that we were on top of things. The day we sent the video, we booked our first week of appointments. That video gave my optometry practice the credibility of a big organization—not because it was polished and professional, but because we were one of the first practices in our area to do something like that. One of my mottos is, “Fail fast.” As I see it, if you have an idea, just go for it. If it’s not going to work, you'll find out much quicker by doing it than waiting to see what other people do. We went for it and it worked.
As patients come in, we see the confidence they feel returning to our practice. They know what to expect and are respectful and appreciative of the new rules and processes. As we look towards increasing capacity back to 100%, we will continue to make modifications so that safety remains the top priority and our patients know it.
Watch the video