Adapting the practice playbook to the rules of Uber
Richard Scarborough looks at how introducing patient finance into your practice can help you get back on your feet once you’re able to reopen your doors.
Richard Scarborough (RS): What are some of the biggest lessons that practices can take from lockdown?
Guy Deeming (GD): Firstly, we have to behave in an empathetic fashion and understand how patients will feel about the things that we’re doing.
For example, moving services online acknowledges that some patients are going to be feeling anxious. Coming to see you is a risk that they would rather avoid.
Secondly, we need to engage with patients in the way that they want. Before they actually start treatment, a patient is a consumer, whether we like it or not. Consumers want engagement, with what they are comfortable with. Whether that’s via Whatsapp or social media or online booking.
We don’t get to make those rules; the likes of Amazon, Uber and Deliveroo wrote those rules, and that ship has sailed.
If you’re not starting to adapt or change your service offering to reflect those consumer behaviour patterns, then it’s going to become increasingly difficult. The numbers of people that are going to pick up the phone is going to potentially reduce. That’s not COVID-19 related. The pandemic is just the accelerant.
RS: You were already doing virtual consultations before lockdown, and you accelerated that during it. What has the reaction been from patients?
GD: It’s generally been amazing. Patients have really engaged with it and they understand the concept – it’s just not that big a deal to them. It’s much bigger news to us than it is to them.
The quality of conversations is much higher, which could be because in a virtual environment, there are less distractions. Also, in a practice it can feel as if the balance of power favours the clinician or treatment coordinator. Patients can perhaps feel inhibited to ask certain questions. In a way they feel more comfortable, relaxed and open when they’re sitting at home via video.
We’ve had lots of really nice comments and reviews. We have a 100% conversion rate for patients who subsequently come into the practice. This is because we’ve done all the preliminary stuff already.
RS: What are your thoughts about what lies ahead over the coming months?
GD: All we can do is try to keep a firm hand on the tiller during the storm. What gives me comfort is that we’re not trying to be perfect, we’re just trying to maintain a commitment to moving forwards and improving things.
We don’t know what the economic impact will be, or the scale of any further outbreaks. All we can do is keep going because stagnating or naval gazing at any stage of owning or running a business is problematic. But never more so than at the moment.
In terms of cash flow over the next six months, I am cautious. We will be very careful about how we manage that but we have to maintain business growth, which means that we still need to find a way to continue to invest in our messaging and in our marketing.
Because without that investment, even if you manage the short term and you’re just burning through your reserves, you’re eventually going to look up and there’s going to be nothing left. If you’re eating from the freezer, you need to find a way of restocking the freezer.