Your New Normal: Finding Positive Ways to Utilize Your Time in the Era of COVID-19
By Practice Growth April 16, 2020
It’s undeniable - times have changed. In the era of self-isolation and physical distancing, you may be struggling to figure out how to structure your schedule and find your “new normal”. If, like many people, this upheaval has you feeling a little lost, we’d like to help.
We outline some positive ways to utilize your time during the COVID-19 pandemic below, and we also tap into some advice from Trudi Charest, co-founder of Marketing4ecps, a digital marketing agency focused on building digital solutions for Optometrists & Ophthalmologists.
This is a perfect time to catch up on all those mundane tasks you’ve been avoiding. When your practice is fully operational, non-patient facing tasks, like paperwork and charting, may end up on the back burner. This slower-paced period presents an excellent opportunity to strike those things off your to-do list.
In a busy practice setting, finding time to keep things tidy and organized can be challenging. At the end of a long day, paperwork may end up in a desk drawer, and an occasional patient file may get misfiled. Take some time to arrange your workspace so that it better facilitates your pre- (and post-) COVID-19 routine. If your practice operates with a paper filing system, take some time to skim each section to make sure everything is in order. If you’ve been thinking about switching to an electronic medical record (EMR) system, this could be a great time to make the change. Some companies offer remote EMR training, so staff who are working remotely can get comfortable with the new system before returning to work.
Improve Your Practice Aesthetically
Renovations, even cosmetic ones, are quite an undertaking. Projects, like painting and general repairs, take time. Fitting these projects in between operational hours isn’t always feasible. Usually, to make improvements, you’ll need to make a mess. While your practice is closed to patients, you’ll have plenty of time to make a mess, and your paint will have plenty of time to dry. Don’t take on more than you can handle, though, as you won’t be able to enlist a professional to help during the pandemic.
Focus on Paperwork
When you’re seeing patients, paperwork isn’t a top-tier priority, but research shows that good charting and paperwork habits lead to financial savings and improved patient care. Take this opportunity to catch up on charting, submit overdue referrals, and critically evaluate your staff’s (and your own) paperwork habits.
Enhance Your Practice’s Online Presence
Trudi Charest, a digital marketing expert in eyecare, suggested that optometry and ophthalmology practices should take the time now to boost their practice’s online presence.
Trudi’s top three suggestions:
1. Improve Your Practice Website
This is truly the foundation of your digital strategy and really your entire marketing plan. All roads these days lead to the website. If you haven't updated your website in the last 12-18 months, it is likely obsolete. There are so many changes to consider, like how Google ranks websites based on expert and active content to the mobile experience since almost 60% of eye care related searches are now done on a mobile phone.
Trudi’s Tip: Google your practice on your mobile phone. Is it responsive and engaging on a mobile device? Can you click on your phone number?
2. SEO or Search Engine Optimization
This is how you show up for eye care keywords on Google. Why is that important? Every day approximately 100-200 searches are done around your practice or geography related to eye care, eye health, or eyewear. Where you show up completely relates to whether the potential patient will click on your website. There's a science to ranking higher in Google ads, Google maps & organically.
Trudi’s Tip: Google your practice and look at where you show up in all three areas. If you're not showing up in all three, it is an opportunity, and you should talk to your marketing team to implement SEO strategies ASAP as they take time to start working. We have seen these strategies grow practices by 10-100 new patients a month depending on location, competition and investment.
Facebook is still important, but Instagram is where it's at for eye care practices. Instagram is certainly a hot platform for eye care because it's visual, engaging, and easy for practices to set up and start posting. The mistake most practices make is to not go in with a plan or strategy, and they just start posting anything and everything.Their instagram grid looks messy and unorganized. The practices that do it well take the time to study how to do a great job on Instagram and put together a robust strategy, including professional stock photos or taking better photos and editing themselves.
Trudi’s Tip: It's a lot of work to get good at building an Instagram strategy and ongoing posts, if you can't spend the time, consider outsourcing. Track the time you or one of your staff is investing, and you will see that allocating those dollars to an expert may be a much better option. You can hire a social media manager who understands eye care to build your solution and posts starting at $175 a month up to $1500 a month, depending on how custom and the number of posts.
Focus on You
If you’re feeling stressed during this uncertain time, you’re not alone. In a recent study, more than half of respondents reported moderate-to-severe psychological stress relating to the pandemic. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking time away from work during a health emergency
Strengthen Your Physical, Emotional, and Mental Health
The benefits of physical activity are widespread and well-researched. Working out at home can be just as enjoyable and beneficial as working out at a gym. Bodyweight strength training and small-space workouts like yoga and step-ups are all excellent options. Many online fitness communities are offering free or discounted remote classes during the pandemic.
For example, Peloton has a 90 day free trial for their online platform that has tons of exercise routines and work-outs. You don’t need the bike anymore. Fitbit has a Covid plugin for their app and offers a premium membership for three months. Definitely Google your options as other platforms are offering similar extended trial periods. You can cancel anytime.
If you’re struggling mentally or emotionally, as strong as the temptation may be with all the Covid-19 chaos, avoid quick-fixes like alcohol and tobacco, which can cause a decline in mental health over time. Instead, avail of professionally-developed resources, such as the Disaster Distress Helpline from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Learn Something New
Is there a skill or hobby you’ve always wanted to learn? Have you been thinking about training in new methods or enhancing your knowledge on a certain topic? Enrolling in massive open online courses (or MOOCs) is an inexpensive (or sometimes free) way to gain knowledge from respected schools and companies, including Yale and UC Berkeley. You can enroll in a single course or complete an entire degree remotely. Check out coursera as well.
Take it Easy
You don’t have to spend every day of your home isolation improving yourself personally or professionally. Indulge in a staycation - binge-watch a new television show, spend the day baking, or spend some time with your family (if they live in the same house as you).
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in isolation, try to strike a balance between your personal life and your professional life. Remind yourself that this is a strange time, and it’s okay to stray from your usual routine. Focus on activities that are rewarding and can help you reach your goals.