Go Here to get a FREE Guide and FREE COVID-19 Medical Practice Checklist to help you take all of the steps you need to invite your patients back to their regular appointments.
COVID-19 has created an entirely new environment for medical providers. If doctor-patient relationships were important before, they are now more so than ever. Patients are going to require better communication and systems as well as reassurance that their well-being is protected.
The American Medical Association has said that four signposts must be apparent before cities and states reopen. These are:
- Minimal risk of community transmission (downward trend in new cases/fatalities)
- Coordinated network of testing with sufficient supplies
- Public health system with the right resources for surveillance and tracing contact
- Fully resourced health care workforce and hospitals
The White House has issued guidelines for three phases of reopening, which can be found online here.
Your Medical Practice in a Post-COVID-19 Era
Want to get patients back in your practice? The business and patient-facing side of your work has changed. You will have to be adaptive and highly accommodating as you regain trust and set new protocol in place. Here are the three areas to work on as you prepare for a post-pandemic world.
- Rebuilding Operations
- Patient Communication
- Recovering Revenue
The future of work in medicine and all industries has always been increased digitization and automation. The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked every practice in every town in this country to mobilize telehealth capacities. Many rose to the challenge.
Once the critical season of the pandemic has subsided, how will these novel technologies and traditional systems work together? This is an important question to answer. Once emergency-mode is switched off, here are all of the questions that medical providers need to ask and the operational decisions that need to be made:
- From the AAFP: telehealth CMS reimbursement, rights, disclosures and ongoing availability to patients
- Integrating more technology into patient experience: wait time apps, communication apps, nurse/doctor access
- Waiting rooms, triage and treatment processes
Patients are going to need continuous reassurance that you are doing everything possible to keep them safe. Providers will have to be intentional about providing digital and visual communication about the processes being implemented.
As culture moves into a new normal, patient communication will have to reach a new level. From assuring them of safety to specifically inviting them to book an appointment, there will be a variety of new ways that medical practices will have to get on board with patient outreach efforts. There are several important methods to take:
Call Your Patients
Get on the phone and call patients. Your receptionists and other office staff should make personal calls to people whose appointments were deferred. Get those appointments scheduled. Provide them with a script so they know exactly how to describe the safety measures in place.
Email Your Patients
Create templated emails that will provide patients with an understanding of how your medical practice is doing and what they are now “allowed” to do, in terms of elective visits or procedures. This will be in alignment with your state guidelines.
Text Your Patients
Text your patients messages about reopening, with news and updates that they can respond to with a phone call or by opening your app.
Your building should be filled with signs that post important updates and information about sanitation and safety. These should clearly indicate compliance with CDC and WHO recommendations as well as any state-specific protocol. Make it very clear, from the moment a patient walks through the door, what is being done to keep them safe.
Opt into an app like DocClocker. This is a key way of instituting new waiting room management protocol. No patient is going to sit in a waiting room with many other people. It is vital, in this new season, that you keep your waiting room as empty as possible. Go here to learn about how you can use DocClocker to inform patients about wait times and more.
You already know that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted your practice and patient-load. The Journal of the American Medical Association discussed two key financial challenges that most providers will face. These are:
- Uninsured patients. With overwhelming job losses, many people have also lost medical coverage.
- Postponed care. Many people put off a regular checkup or an elective surgery during the pandemic. These services contribute a lot to the bottom line of a standard office or hospital.
Many medical facilities have already furloughed and cut costs as much as possible. No budget is immune to the impact of closures, cancellations and cuts. The most vulnerable groups include rural hospitals with low margins, small PCP and specialty offices. JAMA imagines that many people will pursue the following solutions:
- Consolidation and mergers
- Continued telemedicine/remote practice
- Physicians hired as-needed through staffing companies
Some of this activity could be a natural extension of the collaboration started to address COVID-19. Other solutions naturally reduce or eliminate staff. The hard truth is that there will be a seismic shift in the way medicine is done. Every provider needs to be aware of their options and, as best as possible, predict their best course of action.
For providers themselves, getting people-oriented is going to be essential. This takes commitment and should not ultimately be at odds with recovering revenue. Where patient-load was a key determinant of income in the past, new platforms and technology are changing reimbursements. There will be a huge learning curve as the entire industry gets agile around telehealth and other patient interactions. The expectations are changing. And the money will get to the people who can change the fastest to meet those expectations.
Waiting Room Management
Waiting room management is going to be a vital part of getting back to business. Just like restaurants are reopening at 25% capacity, you will need to carefully consider how many appointments you can book and how many people will be together in the waiting room. Go here to get DocClocker as a streamlined way to manage your waiting room. This is a way to automate the process and create a system that gives peace of mind to all of your patients.
Want more resources? Go here for the AMA state-by-state information chart on resuming elective surgeries and other procedures. It is a living document that will be regularly updated with the latest information.