Let us talk pandemic. Trying to restructure the practice to meet recommended guidelines after coming off a quarantine is enough to make us go insane. The challenges each office faces are too many to name. For some, it has forced early retirement. For others, the pandemic has led to closing the office or even changing careers. For many, it means doing what needs to be done to safely start over.
The comeback is hard but human nature pushes us to pick up where we left off. In addition to making necessary physical changes in the office to comply with state recommendations, our attitude also needs a reboot. We cannot move forward if we stand still. We must not wallow in disappointment and anger. Yes, there has been substantial disruption to our lives and our practices not to mention lost revenue, lost patients and lost staff. Eventually, by sheer will, we will all learn how to move on.
Concerned practices install acrylic barriers at their front desks and wear face shields to minimize virus particles that escape when speaking, coughing, sneezing or laughing. Staff sanitizes treatment rooms and checks or replaces air filters for effective functioning. You address patient expectations in advance and spread out their appointments. Social distancing alternatives to what was once a crowded reception area now become the more spaciously created norm. Personal protective equipment (PPE) purchasing is at an all-time high, staff are proficient in the new protocol and we post new rules and information for our patients to follow. One of the rules in our new reality is respectfully donning the recommended face coverings in the global effort to contain the virus. This is all part of the beyond ordinary times of 2020.
Podiatrists and the entire medical community have had the education to understand that masks work. This is still a challenge for much the general population, resulting in mask dissenters. (Remember the resistance to seat belts and smoking in public places?) Things being the way they are, what if there was a way that we could embrace the mask instead of fighting it? In other words, see it as a way to help broaden your message and take part in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Look around at the masks people wear. More and more, they have become personal statements, displaying a word message, logo or graphic to promote something. There are masks plugging sports teams, pets, toddler designs (dinosaurs, trucks, cartoons, crayons and princesses), businesses, politics, occupations, names, phrases, or cultural issues. There is a design to fit the whim of almost everyone. “Smiley faces” are one of my favorites. I cannot help but smile back!
Interestingly, for a recent medical appointment, masks were the new topic of conversation between myself and the medical assistant, and then again with the doctor. My mask was nothing fancy but it prompted questions about the type, where I purchased it and how comfortable it was, followed by unsolicited compliments. Since this was my first visit with this physician’s office, I found the mask to be a real icebreaker.
It made me think, “why not create one that promotes your practice?” Be imaginative. Come up with a catchy “foot” phrase (“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”) or have your practice name and/or logo printed on it. Perhaps you could do both with something like “Step up with ABC Podiatry Clinic.” You can even have masks printed for your staff with their nicknames or initials to temporarily replace name tags.
Purchasing masks (en masse) is surely less costly than t-shirts, water bottles or other promotional paraphernalia that practices often use as marketing giveaways. Give a mask to every patient as he or she enters the office. The patients will wear it elsewhere and these masks become walking billboards for your practice.
If you do not support mask wearing, then maybe this trending marketing idea is not for you. However, if you trust the science that masks save lives and want to join those seeking new and unique ways market their name, why not give this one a try?
Thankfully, mask wearing will not be around forever. For now though, in these times of uncertainty, ongoing spread and let us face it, COVID-19-weariness, a little “mask marketing” boost might be an uplifting way to deal with our new normal. Maybe it is just what the doctor ordered!
Ms. Homisak is the President of SOS Healthcare Management Solutions in Federal Way, WA.