In High Demand, Alternative Service Providers Shift Amid Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many businesses to stop operating, but given demand for health and wellness services are all stripes, providers have had to get creative. This has been particularly true for many alternative health service providers, who have faced many of the same restrictions as retail operations, but who are in high demand. These strategies have varied widely between providers, but they demonstrate the power of technology and the ingenuity and surprising things that can happen when holistic providers turn to high-tech solutions.

Promoting Healing Properties

While alternative care providers very much want to meet their existing clients’ needs during the pandemic, at the core of their adaptation is an even simpler prospect: professional survival. After all, unless they continue booking appointments, they won’t be able to meet anyone’s needs – now or in the future. With that in mind, many are looking for ways to promote their services, not necessarily by suggesting their treatments have any bearing on COVID-19 infection, but rather as supplementary ways of promoting health, such as for purposes of stress relief or managing insomnia.

Take aromatherapy as an example. Aromatherapy has numerous health-related applications, among other uses, and it can easily be delivered as a virtual consultation service. With traditional doctors harder to access right now, these providers are well-positioned to promote their no-contact services and deliver alternative care to a new audience.

Many other alternative health treatments share similar properties with aromatherapy, at least in regards to their ability to relieve complaints like insomnia and anxiety, issues that have been on the rise for months. In addition to promoting these specific services, many providers have also introduced sliding scale pricing in order to reach more clients, especially given the current economic downturn.

Appointments Go Virtual

As noted above, many alternative health service providers are trying to stay afloat by reaching clients remotely, but that’s not always easy, especially if they’re used to working out of a traditional office. Luckily, there are lots of tools available to support this transition, such as Yocale’s self-service online appointment scheduling platform. Such tools make it easy for alternative healthcare practitioners to build a booking calendar right into their website, accompanied by options for email and text reminders.

In addition to scheduling tools, there are also many different digital platforms for actually conducting appointments. These include both conventional tools like Zoom and Google Meet, as well as health-focused appointment services. Whatever you choose, though, it’s important to select a suite of programs that work well together and that you feel comfortable with.

Setting Proper Protocols

While some services, like aromatherapy consultations, can easily be delivered remotely, other alternative health services require in-person interactions. That’s a hard thing to pull off in the middle of the current pandemic, but it’s not completely impossible with proper preparation. For example, some massage therapists have been offering in-person instructional meetings – no-contact consultations where they walk clients through self-massage practices. Though a different experience from conventional massage, self-massage has proven benefits and is an excellent middle-ground.

Another option for massage therapists, as well as acupuncturists and others in the alternative healthcare industry is to allow contact during patient visits along as they follow a consistent, strict protocol. This includes mask use, thorough handwashing, and spacing client appointments to enable you to fully disinfect patient rooms in between sessions. Practitioners in such touch-heavy fields may wish to consult the guidelines for doctors and physical therapists, or those issued by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. At this point, we know enough about how COVID-19 is transmitted that providers can reasonably resume in-person services where necessary, as long as they take such precautions.

Finally, many providers are launching new services specifically based on their new remote operational status. This includes spins on gua sha, a Chinese technique similar to acupressure, online shops for purchasing home treatment tools, salves, and oils, and cosmetic offerings. Though an imperfect solution, such flexibility is critical to running a thriving business that can navigate any situation.

Addressing Patient Concerns

While alternative healthcare providers can modify and market their services, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll encounter concerns even from some of their most loyal clients. What, then, is the best way to assuage these concerns, or at least address them? The best responses likely rely on a combination of pandemic science and the benefits of a given treatment.

Regarding the safety of in-person treatments like massage and acupuncture, the experts admit that things are complicated. However, as research has established, surface-based transmission is minimal, so as long as the space is well-ventilated, everyone wears masks, and providers regularly clean the space, along with surfaces like treatment tables, the risk of transmission is low. Providers can also offer extra reassurance to clients by investing in special disinfecting equipment, like the misters used in restaurants and schools, or by hiring an outside cleaning service.

As for the benefits of having these treatments, the good news is that providers have a great deal of evidence to point to in this regard, though this will vary by specialty. Massage therapists, for example, may point to the immune boosting benefits of regular massage, as well as its ability to decrease stress hormone levels. Many individuals with chronic conditions also rely on regular massage or acupuncture sessions to treat chronic pain, migraines, and other conditions. While such issues typically aren’t progressive or degenerative, some individuals may find that without regular treatment they suffer some temporary setbacks in their health.

A Challenging Time

However you approach your business’s continued operation, this is a challenging time to try to run a small alternative healthcare business. But despite these challenges, the pandemic has a growing number of people considering the value of holistic treatment, including practices like aromatherapy, acupuncture, herbalism, and massage. That makes it the ideal time for practitioners to reach out to a broader audience, as long as you can remain flexible and adapt your practices to the unusual circumstances of the moment. Let the challenges push you to be better at what you do, and to serve your clients in new ways.

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