PROTECTING YOUR PRACTICE AND STAFF – Advice From An Experienced Marketing and Banking Executive
By Robert Gangi, CEO & President of RG Consulting Services LLC
Creating a safe environment for your staff and clients has always been an integral part of running your practice. Now, it’s become a differntiator for you in the marketplace. Prospective and current clients want to feel like you’re taking all the right steps to make their visit relatively worry-free. That starts with the physical changes: dividers, fewer lobby chairs, staggered scheduling, reinforcing signage, telemedicine/teledentistry, and commitment to continue these long after the pandemic isssues have subsided.
The next part of differentiating yourself from your peers is to get the word out! Consider launching a 4-6 week marketing campaign, communicating what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and why. It should include testimonials from recent visitors and current staff to confirm their comfort with the revisions. Lastly, you should reiterate not just how to keep safe when they’re in public spaces, but how they can personally take care of themselves as it relates to why they come to see you. For example, hand cleanliness and flossing (dental), best use of hand sanitizers and eating healthy, or proper mask purchase criteria and the importance of exercise. It’s such a good time to be creative in your messaging. Their expectations have changed and you need to recognize that and accommodate accordingly.
There’s also the investment in setting up a safe physical space, which will cost actual money. But what’s the investment look like from the start, and what will it cost you to make this work well? “Investment” can take a variety of forms: time, people, equipment, support from partners and outsourced experts. Some things to consider:
- Physical changes to office space
- New cleaning and sanitizing equipment and routines (products, air purification units, PPE)
- Changes needed to implement new service delivery appraoches, e.g., telemedicine or teledentistry, followed by Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and related equipment.
- Upgraded technologies e.g., work from home (WFH) investment in equipment (VPN, laptop with video, headset/microphone, chair, Zoom or similar subscription, etc.), new backup systems, in-office bandwidth, and outsourced Tech Support.
- Legal issues to address, e.g., updated HR policies, additional training on HIPAA, privacy, compliance, cross-sell techniques, etc.,
- Costs associated with marketing these new/formalized activities (print, email campaigns, social media outreach, PRs, etc.)
As a former commercial banker focusing on supporting practices across all profiles, I know that you’ll likely need access to cash to support the costs associated with the activities listed above. The traditional approach is either via a revolving line of credit and/or a short-term loan. Money right now is very inexpensive, so it’s a good time to call your bank’s Relationship Manager. Keep your cash with the goal of having at least six (6) months operating cash in your account for emergencies or further disruptions. Expect that the capital needed will range between $25,000 – $75,000. If you select to invest now in RPM tools, you can expect to add at least another $40,000-$60,000 to the capital expenditures.
Even though this amount seems relatively small, unfortunately, COVID-19 has many banks cutting back on extending new credit due to perceived increased lending risk. With the pandemic, the SBA had made available the EIDL and the PPP, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund. None of the three is available right now, but may re-open for new applications before the November 2020 election. There also are alternative funding sources that utilize your loyal patient base that can invest in your practice and in you (ask me about SMBX). We can help you there if you’d like to know more.
Lastly, you only know what you know and sometimes need to turn to others who have a focus on executing these changes. I mentioned earlier the importance of utilzing firms that have extensive experience in handlng these new issues. The Healthcare Business Consortium (HBC), www.healthcarebusinessconsortium.org includes all of the healthcare-focused experts across all relevant fields that you’ll need to move your practice forward. Lots of things to think about and it’s always helpful to find reliable and experienced professionals to support you now and in the long-term.