The Surgeon's Guide to Practice Survival During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The operating theatres are shut. Surgeries are cancelled. Your income stream has slowed to a trickle.
As a surgeon, you are used to a smooth-running private practice. Surgeons, after all, are creatures of routine and habit. You see patients at the clinic, schedule bookings for future surgeries, do pre-operative rounds, operate, and send patients home in better shape. Then you do it all again the following week.
It’s a recipe for success that has served the surgical field for the past several decades. It’s all business as usual.
But it’s not business as usual anymore. Private surgical practice just changed before our very eyes. The COVID-19 pandemic has single handedly disrupted your usual routines and revenue. You’re a skilled surgeon who can no longer perform surgery. Patients are no longer coming to your rooms for a consult, no longer in the wards for you to see, and not in the operating room to undergo surgery.
In this new climate, how can you stay relevant and keep your practice afloat?
I’d encourage you to remember that your practice is a long-term business venture. You can use this strange time to advance your career, take advantage of the telehealth frontier, and strengthen your digital marketing clout so that you are well-positioned to thrive when the operating theatres open again.
Continuing Professional Development: Now Is the Time
How would you like to develop as a surgeon? In which direction would you like to steer your practice?
These are exciting questions that lift your gaze to a promising future. Investing in continuing professional development (CPD) is an obvious first consideration.
Thanks to digital technology, you can access professional development opportunities through online specialty courses and webinars. This ensures you continue to meet the CPD requirements of your respective specialty boards and keep abreast of surgical practice updates.
Telehealth: Continue Caring for Your Patients
If cancelled surgeries are unsettling for you, they are also upsetting for your patients. Their much-needed treatment has been delayed indefinitely; their health problems will continue to trouble them with no resolution in sight.
This is why telehealth is fast becoming the new frontier in private practice. Pivoting quickly to telehealth also helps you stay ahead of your competition.
Here are some simple tips to remember about how telehealth relates to surgical practice:
- Meet the patients where they are: These are unprecedented times that call for unconventional methods. Taking a proactive approach to patient referrals translates to practice revenue. Patients want reassurance and meeting their needs helps your practice earn.
- Safety comes first: The COVID-19 situation makes seeing patients in the office or operating in the theatre a potential health risk. A compromised team threatens to undermine how the business functions. Having telehealth services alleviates this risk and ensures the practice remains in tip-top shape.
- Integrate video/telehealth consultations services offered: Make it readily apparent how ready the practice is to respond to patients. Whether it is the official webpage, social media posts, or invoice, placing a ‘Want an online consultation?’ link makes it easy for patients to book a consultation.
- Adding value through preoperative optimisation: Now is the time to help your patients prep for their surgeries. E.g. if a patient needs to lose weight, use Telehealth as a way to explain this to a patient and connect them to a dietitian or exercise physiologist.
- Planning surgeries in time for the ‘rebound’: Coordinate with GP referrals. Plan outpatient pre-appointments to reduce cancellations. Reschedule previously booked cases and address new referrals with proper queueing. Once the rebound hits, you’ll have systems in place to ensure a smooth transition for business recovery.
Effective Marketing and Reputation Management
Your patients should be spending most of their time at home right now – and they’re flocking to the internet. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to optimise your digital presence.
Here are some of our recommendations to help you build an effective marketing program:
- Stay relevant during COVID-19: Create a COVID-19 info page on your website and provide regular updates on how it affects health appointments, elective and emergency procedures. You could include links to high-quality external sources, you could write your own copy or you can use Splice Marketing’s free COVID-19 information pack. This was written by our Healthcare Copywriter and includes blog articles and social media posts which you are free to access, use and upload to your website. Access the free pack here.
- Investing in SEO is a key strategy: SEO is the initialism for search engine optimisation, the service to get you ranking high in Google search results. Many potential patients are going to rely on Google and similar search engines to look up specialty services, conditions or even treatment options. Patients will be in need of specialist expertise despite the COVID-19 threat – their other health needs have not gone away. SEO provides a level of relevance to a business venture in preparation for the post-pandemic period. If you start your SEO activities now, in 3-4 months time you will see your website ranking for many of the search terms being entered into Google by your patients. That translates into more visits to your website and more bookings for your services, meaning you have a steady flow of work once the operating theatre doors open again. Download our FREE SEO Guide for Healthcare Professionals here.
- Update Google Ads to the purpose of the COVID-19 situation: If you’re already running Google ads, optimise your ads to become relevant to COVID-19 and win over a solid patient base. Preparing a telehealth service will earn dividends in receiving enquiries and scheduling future appointments. With the increased internet traffic, well-placed ads translate every click into cash flow. Promote your Telehealth services in the call-outs or descriptions of your ads.
- Provide GP referrers with practice updates: A surgeon’s referral network is essential to maintaining a steady patient inflow. Email your GPs and update them on what your practice is doing in light of the current situation. Better still, record a short video message and send that over to your doctors to make the contact feel more personal. You can use programs like Zoom or Loom or Skype to record a video message, attach to an email and send it to your referral network.
- Update social channels with ‘Still here to support your health needs’ status and posts: It’s always important to maintain a social media presence. After all, patients want assurance in a time of ambiguity. Physicians are in a good position to advocate truth and to address misleading information. Social media posts also help you update your patients about your practice.
How Can Splice Marketing Help You?
We have a team of expert health marketers ready to assist you in establishing and promoting your new telehealth model. We are also well-versed in content marketing, social media management and SEO services essential to maintaining the competitive edge of your practice.
Contact us for your free strategy session and let us help you get your telehealth service up and running soon. That’ll help you maintain your practice during the shutdown and be poised to perform surgeries as soon as the virus risk abates.
Stay safe and well and please ask us for help if you need.
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