March 16, 2020 is a date I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s the day my daughter’s school shut down because our governor declared a state of emergency. It’s the day the President of the United States, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued, “Coronavirus Guidelines for America – 15 Days to Slow the Spread” for the entire country.
I remember telling my teenage daughter that school was closed for at least a week. I remember her looking at me with a concerned expression as she processed what this meant on a personal level. I also remember thinking that it was a temporary situation, and surely she’d be back to finish her last year of middle school. I remember assuring her that she’d still get to participate in her 8th Grade Walk, the Academic Awards Ceremony, her dance recital…all the things she had been anticipating and working toward all year.
But, she didn’t do any of those things. She finished her school year virtually, from an extra desk in my home office. We drove through a pick-up line at the end of May where a masked, glove-wearing teacher put a bag containing the contents of my daughter’s school locker into the back of my car.
Now looking back on March 16, 2020 – a year since we, as a community, as a country, went into COVID lockdown – I feel fortunate that my kid only missed her end-of-year activities as an eighth-grader. I still feel bad for the high school classes of 2020 who didn’t get to attend their proms or graduation ceremonies. I feel bad for them now, as they navigate their freshman year of college – mostly virtually.
A year of our "new normal"
Our “new normal” has affected us in ways we probably won’t fully realize until years from now. What was supposed to be a temporary situation turned into closed businesses, restaurants, and movie theaters. It turned into the cancelling of all nonessential medical appointments and procedures. You know the rest of the story...
In addition to the financial burden on our families and society, I keep wondering: What are the lasting effects of COVID on our physical health? Our mental and emotional well-being? How will our kids manage life with these big social and academic chunks missing from their personal histories? It’s just overwhelming to think about.
The optimist in me likes to focus on the positive. Look how far we’ve come. Look how much more technologically savvy we’ve all become – at home and in the office. Look how Zoom meetings, park-and-text “waiting rooms,” and telehealth doctor’s visits have become just another part of our “new normal” busy schedules.
Recently, one of our colleagues summed it up best, quoting an article she read: “In 10 days, because of COVID, we transformed 10 years, digitally.”
Another article calls this abrupt transformation, “a case of acute disruption.” We were forced to jump head-first into embracing technology – for personal lives, for schools, for businesses, and especially for doctors’ offices. And, we can’t go back.
“We went from being the Flintstones to the Jetsons in 9 months.” – Dan Schulman, PayPal
For many dental, optometry, and dermatology practices, this sudden, forced plunge into a technology-driven world has come with a huge learning curve. If your practice was already embracing automated appointment reminders and online scheduling, then you were one step ahead of this curve. But, if you went from an almost completely analog system where you relied heavily on telephone scheduling and mailing overdue balance letters, then you probably had more of a challenge with this “10 years in 10 days” transition into digital technology.
A year after COVID lockdown, thankfully, many businesses and healthcare practices are operating at – or close to – their pre-pandemic capacity. Those who’ve embraced the technology of automating daily tasks, like patient recall and check-in, have made the world of pandemic office operations run more smoothly, without adding more work for overwhelmed team members.
If you added telehealth visits to your practice, you’re in even better shape! That means you offer your dental, vision, or dermatology services in a way that allows nearly every patient to receive care and stay in touch with their doctors – even if they don’t always feel comfortable coming to the office in-person.
Are you a Flintstone or a Jetson?
So, where does your practice fall on the COVID timeline of advanced technology? Are you keeping up with day-to-day tasks like a pro, or getting bogged down in busywork?
Today, after a whole year in lockdown, it’s a great time to assess your team’s efficiency, morale, and patient satisfaction. If you’re not feeling up to speed in one way or another, download the following guide and checklist to take the first steps toward growing your practice so you continue to thrive long beyond March 16, 2021.