Crisis Management During COVID-19

Coronavirus knocking down dominos
By Dianne V. Jewell, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA

The disruption caused by COVID-19 is forcing us to stay home, altering how business is done and how social interaction occurs.

Keeping our distance means we cannot rely on the diverse and informal ways we establish and nurture relationships. We must be strategic about retaining and sustaining trust. Here are five quick fixes you can implement today.

  1. Embrace trust as a mindset and a discipline. The mindset is the deep understanding that building and reinforcing trust in all of our actions and decisions applies to all aspects of our business. The discipline is a commitment to asking ourselves as we ponder strategies and tactics to evolve our practices: “What is the ROI in trust if we do, or don’t do, this?”
  2. We thrive on putting problem solving skills to use in the most extreme circumstances. That habit may feel empowering right now but without a sense of direction you will end up with a patchwork of results where trust is concerned. More now than ever it’s essential that you create opportunities to pause. Take stock of the relationships that will benefit from your attention and develop a reinvestment plan.
  3. Turn off your lights if you must, but keep the communications flowing. Everyone is trying to re-establish a sense of normalcy right now. You can serve that need with messages of all types that reassure, remind, and reinforce. All methods are in play from tweets to blog posts, newsletters, and even the old-fashioned handwritten note. Even if you are uncertain your practice will survive the economics of this virus, connecting through regular and consistent messages sends a signal you are working to keep the commitment to those you serve.
  4. Our patients are always our first thought, but they shouldn’t be the only target of our attention. Our referral sources want to know what we are doing to create continuity for their patients during this crisis. If you had to shut down completely, who is overseeing the plan of care now? If you’re using virtual visits, how are your patients responding? If you are still managing face-to-face visits, how are you keeping your patients safe while progressing their recovery? These updates are trust-builders even if they can’t be received and processed in real time.
  5. Your staff needs the same level of attention. Many practice owners have had to deliver difficult notices of the need to furlough team members. As painful as that discussion may be, the trauma will be magnified if those are your last words. Find ways to check in, encourage, update, and reassure. Consider curating a list of community resources that are available to see them through the pandemic. Remind them that they matter.

Bottom line, trust is an asset that requires active investment to create a lifeline your practice needs and to sustain yourselves until we are all out the other side. You can do this!

Dianne V. Jewell

Dianne V. Jewell, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, is the director of clinical practice, outcomes, and education at WebPT. She may be reached at

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