Interview with Seattle PT Owner: How to Handle Covid-19 at Ground Zero

Interview with Seattle Practice Owner Mike Lewis: How to Handle Covid-19 at Ground Zero

Breakthrough Interview with PT Mike Lewis at COVID 19 Epicenter

Mike is a Practice Owner and is currently earning his PhD in Healthcare Leadership.

Mike’s Physical Therapy clinic is 3.5 miles from the Seattle nursing home where the first US cases of COVID-19 popped up.

See what his PT practice is doing to help the community, continue to treat those in need and combat the spread of the virus in this interview.

Highlights from the Call:
– How WAPT Rehab is handling workshops.
– What his team is doing right now with the patients who do drop off.
– How to “Control the Controllable” in your practice
– What your team needs from you the most right now. And what to do if you can’t deliver.
– Why he did not send out an email (as of yet) on the virus – but what he did do on his website.

Video Transcript

[expand title=”Full Transcript”]
Mike (00:00):
And I can give, I mean do you want a little bit of background cause it’s so literally from Kirkland, Washington. So I did hit record so, okay good. Yeah. So Kurt in Washington, you know everyone has met me at you know bootcamps sorta. My joke is always like when you go to Costco and you buy your Kirkland signature toilet paper that they could me cause that’s like right down the street now it’s going to be like Hey remember we’re the coronavirus girls in Washington. That’s me. I’m that guy. So the nursing home where all this kind of really got started, it’s two miles from my house. It’s literally down down the street from where I live. Our clinic is about three and a half miles from the nursing home where all this is going on. Everybody in the hospital that has recorded the first and the majority of the deaths associated with this is less than five miles from my clinic and about three and a half miles from my house. So we really are here in Kirkland. I mean we are ground zero. We have any 569 cases of about the 2,600 total in the U S have been here in Washington. The bulk of them, majority of them are right here in King County where I live. So we are literally right in the middle of the thick of it right now. So Vertel so run information, that’s where I am, that’s where I’m coming from.

Chad (01:01):
Your doors are still open,

Mike (01:02):
doors are still open

Chad (01:03):
and what we talked about is a, you’re probably two weeks ahead of many of us that are going to be watching this video the rest of the country. So you’ve kept your doors open and you’ve made a [inaudible]. Mike, just if you can go again circle around again at both you and your wife are in healthcare and where you’re at mentally as you’re navigating this. That would be great.

Mike (01:22):
You know, and as we talked briefly to before this chat, I think it’s important to understand everyone is going to come at this from their own unique perspective and their own place and you cannot assume that your situation is going to be similar to someone else. My wife and I are both physical therapist. She works at Seattle children’s hospital, like the largest regional, you know, hospital in the area. And so they have all of their policies and procedure in place. Their staff is trained or well versed on what’s going on. I work in healthcare and run my own business. I’ve made keeping up on this. So we’re fortunate in that both of us work in healthcare. We’re both very calm, both very rational. We can convey that to our kids as well. I’ve got two daughters, 14 and 16 I’m fortunate. They’re both, you know, middle school, high school.

Mike (02:01):
They’re old enough they can stay home and distance, learn on their own. They’re smart enough, they’re savvy enough and they can do that. That’s not the case for a lot of people. So I am very fortunate. My personal situation, what I have going on in my home life, we’re able to come maintain a sense of calm, a sense of cool. My wife and I could help, you know, when my kids are seeing things on social media, their friends are posting things. We can help them disseminate fact from fiction. You know very effectively too. So I understand. I am very fortunate that way. And then my wife also works in healthcare and we’re on the same page with all of this stuff.

Chad (02:28):
Great. So your doors are open,

Mike (02:30):
doors are open. And I know you just had a workshop literally propped open. We don’t close the front door anymore. The door enough.

Chad (02:37):
Um, can you give us like w what the, where you’re at mentally, uh, what your team’s doing there, what the workshop like exactly what happened today. That’d be great.

Mike (02:45):
So we just had a new workshop today and we had, there were total, we had over 50 people registered, which is fairly normal for a new workshop. We had an abnormal number move to the next workshop. If they were nervous at all, we immediately offer just to move into the next workshop, even before we offered a free screener. And I will let you know, let’s just stay in contact with these people. The next need workshop is six weeks out. And people were very comfortable with that as well. When I called did all my workshop phone calls in advance, the message that I told people was I was expecting somewhere between five to 10 people to show up. Clinic is clean, clinic is sterilized. We got enough courage to take a shower and if you want to while you’re here and we have everyone have their own space, we have everything spaced out, you’re going to be totally safe when you’re dumping here.

Mike (03:25):
So I said there’s no need to worry about that. We are prepared to have people in the clinic. So I started leaving that message with people on that if I got their voicemail as well. So we had a total of seven people show up, all seven on scheduled screens. We got one, uh, I E in advance, one free screen or advanced that turned into an IEP as well. So again, the numbers are down for what we would normally expect. But the important thing is we’re still doing it. We didn’t, we didn’t call it off. You know, the marketing has to keep going.

Chad (03:51):
Yup. And the, what I’ve internally led with in our team, and I, I you said this before is um, the peop knee pain doesn’t stop back. Pain doesn’t stop. Rotator cuff pain doesn’t stop because of the epidemic because of uh, COBIT 19 absolutely not. So the virus doesn’t change that and people need us now more than ever. And I know you talked about, um, your philosophy that you have with your team in terms of taking care of the people that are coming in. Can you share that with everybody? Cause I think that’s an important part.

Mike (04:23):
Yeah. So the term that we use in our family, we tell our kids all the time, just control the controllables. Focus on what you can control, stay focused on that. And don’t worry about anything else right now. So what we can control in the clinic right now is keeping the patients that we have, keep them safe, keep them coming in, you know, and project a sense of calm and confidence and clean everything all the time in front of them. Let them see you. Perilla your hands. Let them see you cleaning every single piece of equipment. You know the term is laptop down, eyes up, spend more time in conversation with your patients. They want to talk about this. You work in healthcare. They’re going to view you as someone who has additional resources and information, which hopefully most of us do. Spend more time talking with your patients, hear their stories, you know, sympathize with them and that people are really comfortable coming in because they see the extra steps that we’re making, you know, to kind of care for them, but also make sure that they’re staying safe when they’re here.

Mike (05:17):
They laugh, Tammy, I kid you not. A patient gets up from the lobby to come back. She goes and sterilizes the Sheraton sat in and so their family member, the next patient’s laughing because Tammy was over there scrubbing a chair. But the point is did they see us cleaning everything all the time. Appearance matters. Keep the patients you have coming in because that’s something that you can control. You cannot control how people, how people are going to react and perceive this. If they want to stay at home and close their doors, they’re not going to come seek physical therapy. I can’t control that decision. What I can control, keep the patients that are coming in right now, keep them safe, keep them happy, you know, and just make sure that they’re confident coming to see you.

Chad (05:52):
Yeah. I love that Mike. Um, I, I don’t say control the controllables. We just say control, which you can, but it’s the same exact thing. Yep. And, uh, I know for us, um, we, uh, I’m going to try to say this in a delicate way. We had some team members definitely, um, getting very caught up in the hysteria. Um, and then when we looked at all the rosters, all the census of, of all five clinics, um, we had two patients cancel out entirely. But the workshops continue to roll on. Um, we’ve kind of been fortunate, um, like I think most viewers will be today. Um, and I don’t want to jinx this for two weeks from the day because it could change. Um, I know we have people on quarantine in our area, um, but there have been no or minimal cases right now. Um, and I don’t know if it’ll stay that way, but we can’t really change. I can’t control that. You can’t control that. Yeah. And, and it’ll, it’ll drive us crazy if we have 55 team members focused on trying to control that.

Mike (06:52):
Yeah. Andy, you make a great point about staff. I think it’s super important that as a clinic owner right now, you have to evaluate your staff. I am fortunate, all of my staff, we’re all on the same page. Everyone is calm and collected. If you have someone answering your phones that is worried about this, you need to reassign them somewhere else. Great. And if you have a multiple therapists or clinic, you have the ability. If you have a therapist that’s very calm and rational, you might want to put them at the front desk, let them answer the phones, let them answer the, you know, the phone calls and the questions as well. You people, your staff member that’s calm and collected, needs to be the face of your organization right now. What people, even if they’re calling, calling into cancel an appointment, the your front desk staff has to be dialed in with your philosophy and how to have those conversations and I went over my staff exactly.

Mike (07:38):
This is what we’re going to tell people when they call. We’re going to tell them this. We don’t make any excessive promises that we can’t keep but we need to have a sense of calm and we are open. We’re here for you. We’re doing everything we can to keep you guys safe. As a clinic owner, this might be a chance to reevaluate your self and your personal life if it’s going to be challenging for you to run your clinic right now because of your home situation. Again, I’m fortunate I can spend more time at work because of what I have going on at home. Maybe as a clinic owner you need to make decision. I’m going to assign another staff member to basically run the business and you know, at this point in time, because I’m not comfortable doing it, maybe I’m someone who’s worrying about it or maybe I need to go home and care for my family instead. And you convey them. I said, you know what, we have a team member that has been assigned kind of our crisis coordinator. It’s Chad, he’s all set and ready to go is going to be in charge, you know, for the next, you know, four, six weeks or whatever too. Nothing wrong with that.

Chad (08:31):
Love that. Mike. Uh, one more question, um, here and I know you just had the workshop and I want to let you get back to your family. Um, and my daughter’s here, uh, giving me an elephant. That’s great. Um, the, I, I know you’re, um, taking your, you’re earning a degree right now. Um, and it’s in healthcare administration,

Mike (08:54):
I suppose. My in health sciences

Chad (08:56):
and my very concentration is leadership and administration and healthcare. Okay. So what are you hearing in the classroom around this? Because I’m sure there’s you’re, you’re getting access to fresh knowledge that most of us, yeah.

Mike (09:07):
Well the irony is when the first cases in Kirkland actually happened, I was actually in Utah at an onsite for our PhD program. My wife was in it with me as well too. And so our joke was like, we show up to class next day, we’re going to have a special table for us to have you sit quarantine in the classroom for it. Uh, so yeah, I D I am getting some interesting information. The one thing that I’m going to tell you, and I’m going to tell everyone out there too, that you have to impress upon your patients is do not trust information from social media. Do not trust reposts of articles on social media. Go to the source. And so on our webpage, I direct our patients there. They’d go to our webpage on our homepage, there’s a popup comes up immediately. There’s little information on there, a little blurb from me about what we’re doing to keep you safe. And I have links to the CDC, the Washington state department of health, King County, department of health, the city of Kirkland’s web page, all about their response to what’s going on. You need to tell patients to seek appropriate information. So like in my PhD program, one of the big points that they make if you’re going to go into education is there’s nothing you’re ever going to teach anyone that they can’t find on their own. It exists on the internet. Your job is to direct them to the true and correct information, not the false information.

Chad (10:19):
So that’s the big huge message. Awesome point. Did not know we were going to go here. Um, but that is great. The, have you done anything to promote to your patient list via email or direct mail? Anything around the Corona virus? No.

Mike (10:38):
And we made the conscious decision not to do that. We did it on our webpage. We direct people there too cause it’s short and sweet and it helps with SEO traffic of us and people that my web page, Chad.

Chad (10:48):

Mike (10:49):
Um, well we, we debated it, but we, I opted to continue our normal marketing business as usual because email and stuff are things that we’ve used for marketing in the past. That’s what are my patients expect. And so we’ve just been sending everything out that way. So we actually, I kind of made the conscious decision to not do an extra step yet. I reserve my right to change my mind. But again, the marketing machine that’s emailed direct mail, so I’m not changing that. That’s going, I’m not going to take up time and space away from marketing to replace it with something else.

Chad (11:19):
Um, I, I agree with you 100%. I know it’s a very unpopular decision and I did not want to come across as I’m indifferent, but there, there’s too much information as it is. Yeah. And or too much exposure right now, and I love what you said, point people to CDC, world war world health organization, local authorities that are covering this and get the information from the source rather than me reiterating, you know, we’re going to hand sanitize everything and wash our hands. We’ve been doing that forever.

Mike (11:54):
I know how to wash their hands. It’s new information. No one knew how to wash their hands.

Chad (11:59):
Yes. Um, and, and I, um, I, I’m very aware that, um, again that that might be unpopular, but I, I agree with you wholeheartedly that again, our specialty is in helping people with knee pain, back pain, rotator.

Mike (12:16):
Again, focus on what you’re good at at this point in time. And I do want to throw one more little nugget I want to throw out there for you guys as well. Every single day for the last week, um, at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, my front desk and I go through who canceled that day and we’re keeping a list of why did they cancel, you know, or is it we have had three patients who for various reasons, either they’re nervous, where we had a couple frankly that were on pulmonary rehab should not be going out to anyway. So we recommended that they not go out and stay home. We’re giving a list of patients to call back in four, six, eight weeks when this calms down, who dropped off for good reasons. We have a list of those people to call back. Other people that called back it’s allergy season and starting here in Seattle, people are getting, you know, a sniffly nose or eyes running a little tickle in their throat, not knowing what it is.

Mike (13:01):
It’s probably allergies, so our recommendation is, Hey, you know what? Stay home. You don’t have a fever. You call us back. We’re keeping a list of all of those people as well, so if we don’t hear back from that, we’re going to reach out to them as well. Anytime someone calls and cancels, if they’re nervous, we have two private treatment rooms available as the schedule. If it lightens up, I’m actually, I’ve agreed to work extra hours to get people in one-on-one after hours if we need to as well. For me, I can handle that from home. I live less than five minutes from the clinic. If I want to come in at eight o’clock at night to squeeze another patient in to generate some revenue to keep the train running, I’ll do that. I’ll come in on a Saturday morning and treat, you know, several patients if I need to as well. You have a staff member that’s willing to do that. You can flex hours again, even if they don’t take you up on the offer, you are clearly making an effort that you care about them and that you’re going to go the extra mile for your patients as well. So these are little things that, again, every clinic has to do, but we keep a list of every single person that cancels. Why did they cancel? And what’s our followup plan for that?

Chad (13:58):
Like I, I greatly admire what you’re doing. Really appreciate you as a human being, an individual. I know, I know this is a tough time right now for you to top one here with us. Share your knowledge and wisdom. I greatly appreciate it. I’m very indebted to you. Next bottle of scotch is on me.

Mike (14:16):
Can you hold it up in front of your computer in April?

Chad (14:22):
I’m sorry. Uh, we’ll figure out a way to make that happen. But I’m very much appreciate your time here Mike. And also you sharing your wisdom and leadership as well.

Mike (14:30):
Yeah. And again, I want to emphasize to chat if anybody wants to reach out to me individually, they can email me through work, they can send me a DM on Facebook as well. So I’m more than happy to have some conversations with people too. So what’s the best email for me? The best email, send it to my work email. So it’s Lewis,L , E w I [email protected]. It’s my work email address is the best one. Got it. Pop up on the website. The website is, it’s WAPT yup. And that’ll show you the pop up. Anyone using practice promotions? I think we were the first one that actually rolled that out and I think they actually have kind of templated that now too. Does anyone using dealer practice brochures that they could put that together? I think within just a few hours and get that up on your website for you too. So perfect. I know Neil’s on it. Yeah, he’s on it. Great. Thank you again for doing this. I appreciate it and good luck with all those kids, man. Like I said, my situation is very different than yours. Good luck or a run for our money right now. They’re, they’re giving us a run for our money, so I’ll keep you posted.

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