Topics ran the gamut Thursday and Friday during the 2020 AOPA Virtual National Assembly, touching on issues such as steering your businesses through COVID-19, work-from-home policies, fabrication lab safety, and navigating an O&P education and practice as a minority individual.
Kathy Cook, public affairs specialist with the US Small Business Administration, highlighted how the agency has been helping small businesses affected by the global pandemic.
The SBA has been making disaster loans since it was founded in 1953, but it’s the first time the agency has made low-interest working capital loans in a pandemic, Cook said.
The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) provides working capital to pay fixed debt, payroll, and other bills that would have been paid had a disaster not occurred, Cook told viewers on Thursday afternoon. “SBA resources help keep small businesses in business and retain their employees [in spite of] the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “[EIDL] is not for expansion or to consolidate debt, but to help keep your business in survival mode.”
A noteworthy session for technicians and business owners was “Fabrication Lab Safety in the 21st Century” on Thursday afternoon. In this session, Niles Leonard, CEO, Leonard Industries, reviewed best practices for lab safety, including reviewing how implementing safety practices are more cost-effective than potential injuries. He also pointed out that new trends in the industry such as additive manufacturing and digital workflow eliminate some safety hazards.
In the session “Work at Home Policies: Protecting Your Business & Making Sure the Work Gets Done,” Lori Swanson, JD, discussed the importance of helping employers develop a solid work-from-home policy.
A written policy sets boundaries and expectations for the work and protects the employer from liability, Swanson said. It is also important for employers and their employees to take precautions to protect information about the business and its customers from the increased risks of cyber-intrusions and other data security breaches of remote work, she told viewers. The discussion included considerations for the content of a work-at-home policy: eligibility for remote work, performance expectations for remote work, the home worksite, security and data privacy, and liability.
A roundtable discussion on Friday afternoon, “Talking Shop: Everything You’re Afraid to Ask,” gave owners and practice managers the opportunity to tackle tough topics involved in practice management and patient flow.
Also on Friday afternoon was a timely symposium about navigating O&P education and practice as a minority individual.
As O&P continues to evolve, a greater diversity of people will enter the profession. Panelists addressed the experiences of minority individuals in the healthcare field compared to non-minorities.
In the exhibit hall Friday afternoon, finding ways to make patients feel more comfortable in the wake of COVID-19 was evident in the demonstration of the BLUEWAVE device for O&P, which was designed to eliminate odors but more recently has been shown to kill SARS-CoV-2 on hard surfaces and fabrics without using any water, detergents, or added chemicals.
The Assembly concludes Saturday with more educational sessions.