April 24, 2020 — The road to reopening remains muddied, to say the least. Optometrists across the country that we spoke with this week agree you can’t just walk the old walk.
The challenge is knowing what steps you should take in the face of so many unknowns. What if your state mandates changes that you hadn’t planned for? And, exactly what is it you are opening to...a spike in pent-up Rxs, drops in volume, lower spends, more out-of-pocket?
Simply put—how do you plan for the unknown?
That’s what we asked two ODs:
>> Chet Steinmetz, O.D., who operates Visual Effects Optical in Chicago
>> Michael (Mick) Kling, O.D., industry consultant and CEO of Invision Optometry in San Diego.
“Our governor just extended the stay-at-home order from May 1 through the end of the month, so I’ll be contacting the Illinois Optometric Board to get the scoop,” says Dr. Steinmetz.
Dr. Kling adds, “We got PPP funding, and our tentative plan is to bring everyone back May 1. We probably won’t be open then, but when we do, one of the big variables we need clarity on is how busy we will be. Is there a lot of pent-up demand to be seen or will there be a lot of reluctance to come in? Because of that, we’re not sure how to staff.”
“I have a small staff of two, and I will rotate so only one is with me at a time,” explains Dr. Steinmetz.
“At Invision Optometry, we’ve talked about two shifts with one doctor at a time instead of our usual two,” says Dr. Kling. “There will be Shift A/Dr. A and Shift B/Dr. B. That minimizes our exposure and gives us a lot more open space.”
“I see myself starting maybe three to four days per week at our normal hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” says Dr. Steinmetz. “As we need more hours, I will add days. Exams will be one hour apart so there should be no patient overlap.”
Dr. Kling says he too “will start not scheduling appointments as compactly. As we get more comfortable, we can start filling up that schedule a bit more and, maybe, by the end of the summer, bringing that second doctor back into each ‘shift.’”
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s not a pretty picture. “This year will be a bust, especially if we have a second round of Covid-19,” says Dr. Steinmetz. “If we are near 50% of normal for the next few months, I will be amazed.”
Dr. Kling says that is the real conundrum. “If we don’t get to full capacity quickly, we’ll be operating at maybe 50% of patients, but at 100% of payroll.”
For that reason, concludes Dr. Kling, “We are formulating our plan very slowly and very deliberately.” —Stephanie K. De Long