It’s not an easy time to be a small business owner. COVID-19 is temporarily changing the way many industries do business, and private practice Physical Therapy owners are feeling its effects, too.
Depending on where you live, you may find many non-essential businesses around you shutting down. Your phone may be ringing less, and you're likely experience more missed appointments and cancellations.
No one asked for a pandemic, but now that it’s here, practice owners must do everything they can to weather the storm as safely as possible.
One thing many practice PT owners are wrestling with is the decision as to whether or not to close for safety reasons. It’s a valid argument—businesses around you are doing the same, and your staff may fear potential exposure.
We were in the midst of making this decision for Madden PT and consulted the CDC and local legislative websites to see what information they were sharing. These resources said that any healthcare facility or provider, specifically physical therapy, has a social obligation to maintain normal business hours. That made the decision a lot easier for us.
Your main focus, then, should be on the relationships you’ve been building for your entire career and the level of care you provide. Specifically, these are the relationships with your patients, your staff, and your community. As a practice owner, you need to be in the mindset of putting yourself in the best position to maintain those relationships. Here’s how.
You can’t control whether people show up for appointments, how they’re reacting to the pandemic, or how long the pandemic lasts. But during times of crisis, it’s important to focus on what you can control—and give those things all of your energy.
What you’ve always been able to control is the experience in your PT clinic. You can control how your staff interact with patients, the impression people get when they walk through your doors, and the level of care they receive. Those things are now more essential than they were before because there’s so much outside of your control that could influence your business.
Don’t worry about what other businesses are doing and what’s going to happen in the world tomorrow. Those things are not things you can control, so they shouldn’t claim your energy.
We’re providing an essential service to our patients, even though it doesn’t relate to COVID-19. Our mission as PT providers will never change, even in the face of a crisis. Though fewer people may want to leave their homes during this time, they still need us now just as much as they always have.
At Madden PT, we’re checking in on patients via telehealth, email, texts, and phone calls to continue the relationships and make extra touch points. We’ll also use Facebook Messenger if that’s how a patient prefers to communicate. We’re not just talking physical therapy in these interactions but checking on their well-being and whether they need anything. We’ve also seen some practices that send people out with deliveries if their patients need anything (typically older patients), truly going above and beyond the call of duty.
Another thing you could do is to create a home exercise video or one with tips on how to safely work at home (e.g., good posture). Think about where you can provide value to your patients during their times of need—it might not give you an immediate ROI, but it will pay dividends in the long run.
Staying open during slower times comes at a price that practice owners need to anticipate. For some practices, this could mean temporarily downsizing to make up for lost revenue. You may have staff that choose to remove themselves from the practice to lower their risk of exposure, but in some cases, you may have to make the decision to cut hours or reduce payroll.
Before this becomes the case, go ahead and do some research and put together resources that can help your staff. This way, you’ll be able to assist them in the event that you have to reduce hours or make other changes that will impact your employees.
Connecting with your PT team on a personal level is your clearest path to encouraging them to step up as leaders in the practice. Have one-on-one conversations with every member of your staff and meet them where they’re at. Be realistic with them about the present outlook of the practice and how it may affect them in the coming days and weeks.
On a similar note, now is a good time to do a thorough self and staff evaluation to make sure you have the right pieces of the puzzle in the right place. Sniff out how your team members are feeling about the current climate. Are they nervous? Are they taking it in stride? Most importantly, can they continue to serve your patients with confidence?
You need your best employees on your front line. Maybe this means that you’re putting one of your physical therapists at the front desk answering phones and greeting patients if they’re better equipped to interface with patients and handle their questions and concerns than your front desk person. Whatever path you need to take, be honest and open with your team. They’re likely to reciprocate, which will help you work together toward common goals.
Remember that our current conditions aren’t going to last forever. When we come out on the other side of the pandemic, our patients will still be here to support us, and we must be prepared to return the favor. This means having enough staff in place to continue serving patients, as well as continuing with marketing just like before to bring in new patients.
Pain doesn’t go away in the face of a crisis. Now could be an excellent opportunity to ramp up marketing efforts while more people are at home in front of devices. They might not want to reach for help during this time, but when it’s over, you could find yourself facing a much greater demand and should be prepared to serve new patients as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For more insights and resources to navigate these strange times, join our free Facebook community—Private PT Practices: Standing Up Through Crisis.