Article

Crisis Management

Practices are turning to their optometric alliances and buying groups for tools amid Covid-19. HEA’s Justin L. Manning, O.D., MPH, FAAO, shares six coping strategies.

GOOD TO KNOW

Fear and anxiety can be paralyzing, so it’s important to name and label those emotions.

The Covid-19 crisis has caused significant stress on practices nationwide.

And, according to Justin L. Manning, O.D., MPH, FAAO, executive VP of professional strategies at Healthy Eyes Advantage (HEA), “As we move forward, most independent eyecare professionals (IECPs) are faced with anxiety over reopening and how quickly business will rebound. As we focus on this phase of recovery, it is important to leverage our partnerships to achieve shared goals. Share our strengths. Support our challenges.”

Here, Dr. Manning shares six key strategies in place to begin to conquer the unique challenges that lie ahead.

STRATEGY #1
FACE FEAR.

“One of the most important psychological steps one can take during tough times like these is what’s called ‘fear setting,’” says Dr. Manning, referring to author and podcast host Tim Ferriss’ system that contrasts fear setting with goal setting, and stresses the importance of defining not just your goals, but your fears as well.

“Ferriss says, ‘These tough times put an immense amount of fear, anxiety, and stress on the independent eyecare business owner. This can be paralyzing, so it’s important to name and label those emotions. Write them down!’

“‘Labeling paralyzing emotions [has] been proven to ‘unlock’ the brain and allow [us] to start to move forward, make plans, and respond to challenges at hand.”’

For more from Ferris, check out his TED Talk on this subject: bit.ly/3fxifsv .

STRATEGY #2
CRISIS SUPPORT.

“From the outset of this crisis, HEA has responded with the philosophy ‘We’re all in this together,’” says Dr. Manning.

In the early weeks of the crisis, HEA provided articles on understanding the significance of Covid-19 from a public health perspective, how to care for patients amid the pandemic, and how to nurture practices as doors started to close. A number of these steps included telehealth, promoting online contact lens sales, gift card promotions, and supporting staff from a leadership perspective.

“I have been encouraged by the number of HEA members that chose to use this downtime to work on their office flows, rework their doctor schedules, or determine how they’d implement new technology,” says Dr. Manning. “I had personal conversations with a number of our members, hearing their stories and reminding them of available resources.”

Dr. Manning shares that the company quickly recognized the financial strain this new challenge put on members and their practices.

“We were proactive in working both with our strategic partners and one-on-one with our members to provide the account support they have needed to weather these challenging times.”

STRATEGY #3
OUTREACH.

“As Covid-related legislation was passed, we made sure our members had the resources to understand the individual bills and to apply for the PPP program as soon as possible,” shares Dr. Manning.

The company worked closely with a health care regulatory attorney to provide free legal consultation for any HEA member who wanted to take advantage of the financial resources available to them, especially through the CARES Act.

More than 1,200 members took advantage of this opportunity, a clear demonstration of how great the need was for guidance on these critical programs.

“In addition, we launched a strong partnership with EyecareLive to provide a telehealth solution in line with the [American Optometric Association]’s position on providing ongoing patient care,” he says.

STRATEGY #4
RESOURCES.

“We introduced a robust Covid-19 Resource Center to connect our members with on-demand resources for understanding and accessing CARES Act relief measures, and provide easy access to PPE, HIPAA, and telehealth webinars and HR resources through our PEO partner, Insperity, as well as valuable tools available to HEA members from a number of our key strategic partners,” says Dr. Manning.

As COPE Temporary Rules Modification allowed live credit for courses presented in an interactive distance learning format, HEA transitioned its May 17 Ocular Symposium from an on-site CE event in Southern California to an interactive virtual format, allowing independent ECPs from across the country to participate in this opportunity to earn up to eight hours of live COPE credit.

STRATEGY #5
RECOVERY PROGRAM.

At press time, HEA is strategically building a “Roadmap to Recovery,” highlighting steps to take in the one to two weeks before reopening and specific areas of focus for the first six to eight weeks afterward.

“For example, immediate cash flow through eyewear sales and cash-pay medical services is necessary to right the balance sheet,” says Dr. Manning. “Promotions and incentives can drive purchases. And, playing an expanded role in population health through capturing more diabetic exams and reporting exam findings to the patient’s PCP will improve HEDIS scores and Star ratings, further driving the IECP’s role in the patient’s holistic health care team.”

The Roadmap to Recovery is available to all HEA members and can be downloaded directly from the HEA Covid-19 Resource Center.

STRATEGY #6
PARTNERING TOGETHER.

“As Henry Ford once said, ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’ The Covid-19 crisis has presented everyone in the eyecare profession with a new opportunity to work together for our collective good, including eyecare businesses and industry partners alike,” says Dr. Manning.

As Manning notes, as HEA continues to build the next-generation marketplace, the independent eyecare professional can rest assured that they are not entering the recovery phase alone.

“We were there with resources available to our members at the beginning of the crisis, and we continue to introduce new programs and services that will give our members the opportunity to power up their practice even stronger than before,” he says. “As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Those that take the opportunity to work on and respond positively to these times have the greatest chance of rebounding quickly and going on to realize unprecedented success.”