The year 2020 posed tremendous challenges for medical, dental, optometry, and other healthcare practices. These unprecedented disruptions in how healthcare professionals do business placed strain on all the dedicated team members who remained committed to supporting patients.
As the holidays approach, there are reasons to be thankful. Most practices have been able to weather this storm with a more agile, professional team and enhanced safety protocols to protect team members and patients. Here are some reasons for optimism as the health community looks ahead to the end of 2020.
1. Your Team Has Hung in There
As 2020 unfolded, few professionals could foresee how things would play out. As a result, team members had to continue to do their jobs in an uncertain and constantly shifting environment. Despite the many unknowns, many health teams continued to do their jobs with extraordinary professionalism.
That's even in the face of unusual patient concerns. For example, the American Dental Association found that dentists reported higher volumes of stress-related dental issues than they did prior to the pandemic. Specifically, dentists had more cases of bruxism, chipped and cracked teeth, and temporomandibular disorder symptoms, by rates of more than 50 percent in each.
Dental professionals, therefore, dealt with a new kind of patient more regularly — one with noticeable signs of stress and in need of a specific kind of care. Despite those challenges, your team has stuck it out. That's reason for gratitude.
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2. Industries Were Hit Hard — But You Made it Through
In addition to new kinds of patients, healthcare practices including physical therapists, veterinarians, dermatologists, and others faced other challenges: the bottom line. Shut down orders and other public health restrictions meant these professionals had to face a new barrier to success.
According to the ADA, 90 percent of dentists applied for some kind of financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kinds of relief included the federal Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Many also applied for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Provider Relief Fund, and according to the ADA, those who did not apply for this assistance did not know it existed or did not think they would qualify. Those facts are not surprising, given the decline in the number of patients during COVID-19. According to ADA survey data in October 2020, by then only 75 to 83 percent of pre-COVID number of patients had returned.
That's challenging news. But in a year when so many industries were hit hard, it's reason to be thankful your practice is still in business. The ability to serve patients with a strong team in place is important.
3. Practices Could Reopen and Make Patients Feel Safe
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health practices shut completely with the exception of emergency services. However, as the months went on and with the evolution of public health guidance, many practices could reopen and serve patients. This is another reason to be thankful — not only for the economic welfare of the clinics but the fact that dedicated healthcare professionals could use their skills when they were the most needed.
In addition, many practices had systems in place that offered protection and safety to patients and team members. For health professionals, the comfort of patients is particularly important. The fact that even during a pandemic people felt safe to return to your practice is a reason to be thankful.
4. Practices Focused on Safety Protocols and HR Guidelines
Another upside to the tragedy of the pandemic is the increased focus on team member safety and HR guidelines. Health is always a priority in medical clinics, but COVID-19 served as a reminder of why those protocols are so vital. As team members collaborated to keep patients safe while serving their health care needs, they also had to look out for their fellow employees.
For medical professionals, this brought the importance of team member rights and obligations into greater focus. For perhaps the first time, medical professionals have had to develop guidelines around emergency leave and other critical HR matters. These are new challenges, but also a reason to be thankful. Practices are better prepared to fulfill their legal obligations to their employees. They also have more rules in place for health and safety than ever before.
This leads to an environment of security, camaraderie, and wellbeing. Those are all things worth being thankful for.
5. This Year Makes for a Stronger, Safer Practice
Overall, 2020 has forced health care teams to reevaluate their operational protocols. From patient care to team member responsibilities, practices have paid closer attention to their legal and safety guidelines. Professionals have been able to identify common HR mistakes and fix them. They have learned more about state and federal laws that affect their practice, especially when it comes to team member injury, leave, and performance management.
In many ways, 2020 has been "trial by fire" for health practices. The upside is perhaps learning that your practice can survive a serious economic blow. The extreme circumstances also reveal a big learning curve for many professionals, who had not taken a close look at their HR policies before 2020. By regaining economic stability, streamlining and formalizing important HR rules, and tightening up safety protocols, health practices are more stable and prepared for a post-pandemic world.
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