Coronavirus BRIEFING

Problem Solved: How a Practice Reformulated Its Strategy to Return to Profitability

NEW YORK—With many eyecare practices working their way back to the “new normal” after the widespread closures of the spring, it’s important for these ECPs to take another look at their old, traditional marketing plans and evaluate whether they aligned with patients’ preferences and expectations in the pandemic environment that looks like it’s going to stick around for a while.

Here’s how Brian O’Donnell, OD, of New Era Eye Care in Shavertown, Pa., has adapted to create a recovery plan for his practice with a new view of his marketing programs. Dr. O’Donnell specializes in comprehensive care, including advanced testing and diagnostic technology, pre- and post-refractive surgery evaluation such as LASIK surgery, pre- and post-cataract management services and preventative eye health care through nutritional methods, among other services. He has a single location with state-of-the-art testing and diagnostic equipment to check for eyesight deficiencies, eye diseases and /or other non-optimum conditions.

Brian O’Donnell, OD,
New Era Eye Care
Shavertown, Pa.

I’ve always tried to use each experience in life as a chance to learn, rather than lament the event. The pandemic forced everyone into some form of increased decision making. In business, particularly, you either became creative to come back strong or floundered.

I never make it difficult and always fall back on same basic concepts. One of those was finding out what the public I serve would want and need. So, with the pandemic down time that we had, we surveyed our public (patient base).

In addition, my wife and I read about recovery plans being written by other medical people and watched and participated in countless webinars. We catalogued responses, devised a plan and did not waver from that plan. Most of the plan was similar to others such as change in physical appearance in respect of social distancing, intense COVID questionnaire prior to entry, temperature checks, incredible increase in office presentation and cleaning, and PPE use. But, what we made unique was to align with what patients desired and expected, or, in other words, to use the data given by surveying. The result has been very nice with an incredible business recovery.

For example, a decision was made for changing or streamlining our marketing and promotion expenses. Patients went more “virtual” and so did our advertising methods, which yielded a 15 percent increase in new patients over Q3-2019.

Further, we expanded on our use of web scheduling where patients, being more virtual, had more say in scheduling. Clearly, that has been received well. Verbally, patients express satisfaction with more control, but statistically proven as total examinations (billable visits) are up 33 percent compared with Q3-2019.

I often think it almost humorous that this pandemic taught me what are now obvious lessons, but take comfort in knowing that it cemented knowing to always ask patients what they want instead of me thinking about what they need.