Eye care providers found a number of ways to combat coronavirus closures and setbacks early on in the pandemic. Now, as the virus continues its spread across the country ahead of the start of vaccine distribution, we're better prepared to handle the most recent surge.

Early in the year as ECPs began to confront the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, we posted several blogs outlining strategies for weathering the crisis. Now as we enter a winter surge ahead of vaccine rollouts, we're revisiting some of these posts to help ECPs continue providing care and even grow their businesses amid the pandemic.

This article was originally published on April 8, 2020, but has been updated to reflect the current state of the eye care industry amid the ongoing pandemic.

Eye care practices across the country are closed due to the coronavirus or COVID19
ECPs across the country are shuttering their businesses to protect their communities.

Your coronavirus business plan

The health of the people you care about is priority number one. However, number two should be the financial health of your business. 

Luckily, innovative ECPs have found a number of ways to continue offering services amid the pandemic. This experience ensures as the virus surges in certain areas, ECPs have ways to continue running their businesses.

Continue considering patient volume changes while budgeting

Patient volume may continue to fluctuate in unexpected ways as Covid-19 surges in certain areas. While most ECPs are open right now, the number of people they actually see in person is still down. In November, just over half of ECPs saw fewer patients year-over-year, according to Jobson’s Wave 17 Coronavirus ECP Study. 

If you can, stick with vendors whose pricing is flexible for the time being. This will help you account for sudden drops in volume. Additionally, it’s still wise to hold off on large purchases as uncertainty continues unabated.

Evaluate your A/R health

Now remains a good time to tackle your A/R as well. Any addiiional revenue you can find will be helpful right now. If you can pare back old accounts and collect some long-unrecognized revenue, you can create some breathing room in your profit margin. 

A great way to start is to analyze how long various payments have remained in A/R and categorize them according to length. For example, you can build buckets for less-than-30 days, 31-to-60 days, 61-to-90 days and so on. Afterward, you’ll have a better understanding of how to prioritize addressing payments caught up in A/R. 

Review your financials or take advantage of A/R services to determine where your practice’s A/R stands and what you need to do to ensure you receive the payments you’re owed.

Time to tackle telehealth

Is your practice set up to take these telehealth appointments? The government waived barriers to telehealth services early in the pandemic. This made it easier for ECPs to provide care to their patients while they practice social distancing. 

As part of the country’s ongoing COVID-19 mobilization optometrists have been recognized as physicians. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed cost-sharing for telehealth visits. Finally, the Trump administration waived federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements barring ECPs from using platforms such as Skype and Facetime for telehealth appointments. 

While interest in telecare was certainly higher at the start of the pandemic, it may still prove useful for certain ECPs. If your patients tend to be high risk or you live in a community where the virus is surging, telecare remains a viable alternative to in-person appointments.

Implement your eye care marketing ideas

You can use marketing to find new patients to make up for lost volume, as well as connect with existing patients who you haven’t seen in a while. Marketing to existing patients will be important to make sure they’re setting appointments as the health crisis subsides.

Whether you’ve had an eye care marketing plan or you’re just starting your efforts, there are a number of low cost ways to connect with prospective and existing patients.

Optimize for local search

Search is becoming increasingly localized as Google tries to improve user experiences by personalizing results. That means business that rely on their communities for revenue such as eye care practices need to start optimizing for local search. Updating your Google My Business profile, including local keywords on your website and updating your Yelp profile are all examples of optimizing for local search.

Create content for marketing your practice

Content marketing is a great way to attract new patients and build stronger relationships with existing ones. How? It can position you and your practice's brand as an eye care though leader. If you can create unique, interesting content that educates patients on relevant topics they'll keep coming back to you for more! That will translate into trust for your practice brand and new business. Use a blog, videos or social media to turn your marketing content ideas into reality!

Email campaigns for patients

How do you stay in touch with patients? Email campaigns are great way to continue communicating them without being too intrusive. Build out campaigns to tell them you're still fulfilling contact lens orders, you're offering telehealth services, you're posting a new blog or anything else that may be relevant to them!

Contact lens sales are one way to generate revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic
Contact-lens exams without lens orders are opportunities to generate revenue during the coronavirus outbreak.

Identify services you can offer off-premises

Some ECPs offer services that they can provide without leaving their homes or sell materials that can be made available for pickup. Contact lenses, for example, are an opportunity for ECPs not-quite-prepared for telehealth to continue generating revenue while social distancing—a plan valued members of our Customer Advisory Board described to us. 

Use your EMR to determine who you’ve provided contact lens exams recently. Then identify which of those individuals still have benefits to use. Reach out to these individuals and let them know they still have benefits they can use—specifically on their contacts. 

In order to continue processing contact lens claims for your patients all you need is:

  • A list of all patients who you’ve provided contact lens exams for recently.
  • Access to benefits for patients who’ve received contact lens exams.
  • A payments system that allows you to process HIPAA-compliant payments from your home. 

At a moment when every dollar counts, a concerted effort to convert contact lens patients can help your practice generate much-needed revenue. It won't be what you had before the coronavirus began obstructing revenue streams, but every dollar counts.

Find extra time to spend with your family

Finally, spend any additional free time you have with the people you care about—while maintaining the best social distancing practices!

It’s times like these when it’s so important to keep in mind what’s important. And that’s our family, our friends and all the people we care so much about. That quality time will have an immeasurable positive effect on your well-being during a time when we all need it. 

While all this is going on make sure you carve out time to spend with those individuals. They’ll appreciate and you will as well. Ultimately, that’s what matters.