The 3 things you should have taken from lockdown
Ok, let me be honest. I am sick of COVID, sick of all the posts, and sick of trying to function with glasses and a mask on! I know we all are, so bear with me and know this is not so much a COVID post as it is a post on self reflection. In our busy, chaotic, and ever changing lives, how often do we actually get a chance to sit back and really take a look at where we are, where we want to go, and set up a plan on how to do it? Simply put, this was my moment.
To the detriment of my wife, kids, and probably the person who hears it most often, my office manager, I have a habit of saying “without pain, we do not grow”. After the expected eye roll and subtle grimace they will respond with, “what are we changing now?”. Come on guys! We know perfection must constantly be pursued and change is fun, well about as fun as a 6am workout with one of the hummingbird superfit fitness instructors at my local gym. What can I say? I am a glutton for punishment; but let me not get side tracked. The end of March and April were painful and scary, am I right. Apparently if you take away all my distractions and give me nothing but time, I will endlessly run through scenarios, and run numbers for staying in business and trying to keep the house, etc.
Thankfully, at least in Michigan, we were able to begin re-opening and see patients in May and since then have slowly and carefully started to move back to a slightly familiar new normal. Out of the storm these are the 3 things I think we should all have taken away.
First, We matter! Yes, us Optometrists, the primary care eye warriors matter, to A LOT of people. Let me illustrate this. I know we all kind of thought we should matter to our patients, but did we really? Would they come back? Well let me tell you every emergency visit or phone call I took during the “lockdown” was beyond grateful I was available for their care. Not only that , but the demand for glasses and contacts was beyond what I could have imagined. People need us to function, and I am absolutely humbled to be able to provide the care and resources they need. How cool is that? I hope every single doctor, optician, office manager, who like me was worried about keeping the lights on, making their mortgage or car payments, realizes how much we need our patients as well. Pro Tip: It might be good to keep this in mind the next time Mr. Headache comes in 4 times for an Rx check on his glasses, that you advised him NOT to get unless he wanted a new frame or new lenses, because his prescription did not change and he has 3-4+ cataracts...hypothetically speaking that is. We love you Mr. Headache!
Now, mattering to patients makes sense, right? I mean we have been taught our whole professional careers that there was this doctor-patient relationship, but I did not realize the effect we have had on our vendors. The feedback and support I have received from my lab, frame reps, equipment manufacturers, and contact lens vendors has been encouraging. It seems we are a huge part of their ecosystem; imagine that! That being said, if there was a time you wanted to ask for something, do it now! They need us!
Next, simplicity is the straw that stirs the drink going forward. The world we just left was fat and happy, whatever business idea you had, no matter how inefficient, was rewarded with profits and encouragement to keep doing more of the same. Well, the fat got cut, quick! Bloated payrolls are being addressed in every industry, inefficient menus and service offerings are being cut and every business is focusing on what they do best, or well, they will not be doing much of anything going forward.
In my office, during the month of April I was open 4 days a week for 4 hours a day with just me and my office manager. We were still able to do work, take care of patients and keep the business afloat. One of the unfortunate circumstances of the lockdown was my 3 part-time staff members were not retained. I did it early to give them the best chance to move forward and force myself to make the necessary changes at the office. We have extended our nights and spaced out exams to 2 comprehensives per hour. We double book any child under 12 and have consolidated our total hours open. If we are open, we have patients and are maximizing our staff. I sat down with our office manager and we cut the fat in regards to our procedures. How do we maximize our patient experience, get them in and out efficiently, and maximize the products and services that keep us in business? Have you had these conversations yet? What are you waiting for? The old world is not coming back anytime soon, so you better adapt or be left in the dust.
Lastly, contact lens patients need and deserve our time, attention, and love! If you run a practice, you know you think about it. What ticket is higher, a glasses or contact lens patient? Heck glasses patients need multiple pairs right, one for every outfit they tell us at Vision Expo West. However, in this craziness, who needed us more and kept cash flow coming in? Our contact lens patients! If you were not there and available to take care of these patients, 1800-contacts and those other wretched online scallywags sure were! I find that my contact lens patients are more loyal, come back more often, and absolutely need us to function. The freaked out calls from a patient who just tore their last pair of contacts has had a little more meaning the last few months than ever before. My take from this is to expose more patients to the possibility of contacts, be easier to work with for current contact lens patients, and by all means please have a way for them to order from YOU when you are not in the office.
There you have it, hopefully our last COVID post ever and to be honest I am just going to refer to this one as my “enlightenment” post, I would never sensationalize a headline to get more clicks or reads, right? Well remember, no pain, no growth and don't roll your eyes at me!
Be well my friends and let's chat again soon!