An empathic message to my colleagues, who I always try to help
Service industry providers (ranging from restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores, etc.) including physicians, are going to be impacted by the global economic effect created by COVID-19.
As it pertains to physicians, services could possibly be disrupted as a result of the 2 Fs- “fear and fifty dollar co-pays”. As the coronavirus spreads, the media will play its usual role in the propagation of fear in order to sell news. That’s not a political statement nor criticism. It’s their job. But we now have a new concept known as “social distancing“ that could ultimately feed the vicious cycle that will affect medical practices outside of those who actually treat the virus and its symptoms. People will avoid public service delivery points. That behavior will continue to fuel the economic impact that this virus has on our economy. Simultaneously, as the stock market continues to decline, people naturally will feel less confident in their spending and their co-pay will now play a bigger role than ever in their lifestyle decision-making process.
So what should you do? First, avoid panic and the irrational decisions that often result from panic. The virus might not economically hit your practice one bit. Undoubtedly, the virus and its spread will eventually get under control and its news will be replaced by something else. As for the stock market, there have been 11 substantial drops in the S&P 500 from 1950 through 2018. In 7 of those 11 falls, the market recovered in under one year! So in short order, the fear and fifty dollar co-pay will no longer be factors.
Secondly, panic is causing many people to sell stocks irrationally. Unless you have a justified reason, like harvesting tax losses, if you own stocks, stay the course.
Third- all physicians need to closely monitor their total patient visit volume as well as their charge production. Responding proactively and swiftly will help protect your cash flow. Allowing time for your cash flow to become compromised will create a significant delay in your rebuilding process. It might be time to engage your patients through social media and other venues to discuss the protective measures that you and your practice has put in place during this pandemic. It might also be time to educate your public using strategic marketing designed to keep your patient visit volume steady. What your practice data can tell you is more important than ever.
And lastly, remember that this too shall pass. Respond intellectually and avoid reacting emotionally as times get a bit tough. Every bad decision I ever made in life was done through emotions. Every success, through intellect. And by all means… continuously wash your hands.