Looking into my crystal ball while I write this column in May, I see your healthcare customers getting back to non COVID-related business. Physicians seeing patients in an actual exam room rather than via video stream. Hospitals performing elective surgeries. Nursing homes accepting patients for post-surgery rehab.
That’s good news: pent-up demand for healthcare services is finally being met. But it isn’t going to be easy for any of us. Many of your provider customers have gone without revenue for months. Much as they want to take care of patients and getting their businesses back on track, no one wants to risk creating a second wave of the pandemic.
Here are some suggestions for being a great partner to your customers amid these challenges.
Be sensitive to your customers’ financial situation
A whopping 97% of physician practices have experienced a negative financial impact from COVID-19, according to a Medical Group Management Association survey. These practices are reporting a 60% average decrease in patient volume and a 55% average drop in revenue. Under the circumstances, pitching an expensive new piece of equipment may not only be unsuccessful, but could even make the customer view you as insensitive. People are fragile right now; you need to muster all the professional empathy you can offer. Offer solutions that protect patients and staff, increase efficiency, or lower total costs.
Respect your customers’ safety concerns
As healthcare practices reopen, you’ll likely see a range of new rules, such as asking visitors to wear a mask. Others may ask for evidence of a negative COVID-19 test. If the requirement is one you can comply with, do it, even if you don’t think that a mask or gloves are necessary. If the rule goes too far for you, offer to meet via phone or video conference.
Hone your product knowledge on PPE and infection prevention products
"N95” wasn’t an everyday word prior to COVID-19. Now these respirators are well known and in demand. Know how they are different from regular masks, who needs them, and how they should be used. The same goes for other critical products – your customers will be depending on you to educate them on the products they need to stay safe. HIDA offers helpful resources on the topic at HIDA.org/coronavirus.
Arm yourself with the answers to the most likely questions
You’re going to face tough questions. Plan for those questions in advance; research and refine your responses. Be prepared for questions such as:
Can you get us more PPE?
- Why isn’t X product available?
- What can we use as a substitute for X product that’s not available?
- How come I see X product available online, but you’re telling me it’s on back order?
You may also hear from customers asking for additional credit terms to help them through their financial challenges.
Share learnings across healthcare settings
Providers that have been closed during the pandemic may be struggling to figure out how to operate safely as they reopen. Study what other providers have done and be prepared to share best practices. For example, hospitals learned how to conserve their mask supply through usage rules and inventory control – share these ideas with your clinic or nursing home customers.
Remember, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s psyche. When you get back in your customer’s workplace, make sure you can offer something truly important – compassion.