• Leading With Trust, Communication and Collaboration During Your COVID-19 Reopening 

    Robert E. Wiggins Jr., MD, MPH, pediatric ophthalmologist, managing physician, and former Senior Secretary for Practice Management, provides five key strategies for effective leadership during the COVID-19 reopening and recovery. An avid proponent of lean practice culture and strategic planning, Dr. Wiggins offers his insights on how to get the practice up and running in the post-COVID-19 practice environment.

    • Focus on trust, communication and creating a safe environment.
      Dr. Wiggins has focused his practice recovery process on creating a sense of trust among patients and staff. He stresses the importance of “creating as safe an environment as possible” as this provides the best reassurance. “We are communicating with patients in multiple venues regarding our safety protocols. Our practice screens patients at the front door, does temperature checks and we have patients wait in the parking lot until the exam room is ready.”

      He sees staff as central to the practice recovery. “We have been fortunate to retain and not lay off or furlough staff.” He also emphasized that adhering to strict safety practices has also increased staff’s trust and commitment.

    • Go slow and optimize workflow.
      Dr. Wiggins’ practice now obtains histories and collects copays ahead of the visit to minimize the time patients are in the office. “We are now doing a better job with collections via the phone prior to the visit than when we were collecting at the front desk.”

      A strong proponent of lean, Dr. Wiggins is continually looking for ways to optimize workflow. He cautions that practices should “implement a graded reopening to make sure that any new processes are working and improved where necessary.” He advises focusing on collections and improving workflow as much as possible as small reductions in volume can have significant impacts on profitability as many practices have high fixed overhead. He cautions that another area to pay strong attention is to make sure you know and understand the details associated with stimulus loans/grants and compliance with regulations.

    • Employ a team approach to problem-solving and communicating.
      Several years ago, Dr. Wiggins implemented lean optimization in his practice. His eye care team now regularly looks for ways to improve practice efficiency. In the wake of COVID-19, his practice managers are going from clinic to clinic to see where problems are occurring. “These observations,” he says, “have been invaluable in adapting the practice to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 reopening and has improved our operations across the practice.”

    • Look for surprise business opportunities.
      Although many prefer faces-to-face meetings, Dr. Wiggins stated that “use of virtual platforms has been a surprise business opportunity.” His practice is conducting telehealth appointments and using virtual platforms to conduct staff education, board meetings and employee interviews.

    • Focus on collaborating.
      Dr. Wiggins emphasized the importance of collaboration during recovery. “Locating and purchasing PPE is time consuming and expensive. Working with other groups in your region can lead to better deals on bulk PPE purchases.”

    Robert E. Wiggins Jr., MD, MPH, is a member of the AAOE® Practice Recovery Taskforce and a contributing author of AAOE Reboot Your Practice: Post-COVID-19 Recovery Roadmap for the Ophthalmic Practice. Check out Dr. Wiggin’s detailed strategies in Module 5.1: Envision Strategies and Implement Lean Management.