It is hard to process that only a few short weeks ago physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic and sports therapy clinics were thriving within a backdrop of economic prosperity. Full diaries with accumulated client databases, built on years of hard work and reputations of clinic owners and their associates, have in such a short spell been frozen in time with the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Many of the businesses we have spoken to report they are able to weather the storm in the short term from a financial perspective as latent cash flow from private insurers and commercial intermediaries continues to be paid. However, a common concern permeates our conversations which is the much wider and a deeper threat of attrition. What will the general publics’ attitude be if the lockdown continues from a few weeks to a few months ?
Therapies are inherently intimate. The two metre rule lends itself well to most businesses but not to consultations and physical contact in treatment rooms. Many patients may view their ongoing treatment as an unnecessary expense when their personal debts have almost certainly increased through furloughing or loss of work. Pain is a relative experience and given that the threat of acute respiratory distress and possible death is most likely in middle to older age groups…it could be that these frequent users of therapy services may consider their niggles and aches somehow copeable all of a sudden ; this is already evident in low to no attendances at many emergency departments across the country where the option to stay safe at home is seen as a lesser evil to social contact. As clinicians we also baulk at the possibility that time tends to heal (albeit not optimally) and for some of the more acute referrals – many of these maybe on the mend during lockdown and considered less important to clients who will be keen to get back to work and/or save their money to stabilise their lives. Taking time out of work after such a long period of absence for treatment may not be a palatable option. We know of course as practitioners that we have a role not just in rehabilitation per se, but the opportunity to signpost to healthier lifestyles through being leaner, fitter and stronger. Whether we will still have the platform to get this message across to our client base will be part of the greater challenge.
It is my personal belief that as lockdown is eased over the coming weeks then clinics can expect a road to ‘business as usual’ as the benefits of the therapies will still be within the mindset and routine of many of the patients and their referring agencies. In time this would be considered a blip. Longer than 3 months however, I believe, could be more damaging. The ‘old normal’ that abruptly ceased in March 2020 may be replaced with a ‘new normal’ where the public becomes more risk adverse and thrifty and choose for some while to interact more digitally. Established clinics may feel like they are starting all over again but operating in a very different climate. How they deliver their services may need to reflect this.
For now, maintaining routine contact directly and indirectly using all available channels such as courtesy telephone calls, video consultations (using free software such as Zoom) along with activity within social media may help to contune to reinforce the clinician and patient/prospective patient bond.
Our exercise software has been designed for physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and sports therapists. We can help you provide great care whether it is in the old or new normal. We’re doing our bit to keep sole traders and SMEs afloat by refunding all quarterly subscription monies back to our current subscribers and providing our software as ‘free to access’ for 3 months. If it is tough for our users then it is right that it must be tough for us. There is a simple sign up at https://www.exerciseprescriber.com . Please share this information to anyone who may find it helpful.
What is your unique experience of clinic life and your best guess of how this might all pan out ? What feedback are you getting from your caseload…are they ready to come back or are they anxious about stepping out of lockdown ? Do you have any top tips for other clinic owners as to how you can manage under these unique circumstances ? We will discuss these and our own thoughts in the next publication. Comments are welcomed below.