This article is an introduction to our new series on practice recovery post-COVID-19
Many people expected 2020 to be a year of changes, but not the changes we have seen due to the COVID-19 crisis. All over the United States, healthcare resources are being requisitioned to combat the virus. Hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed with patients and testing in some areas, while in others they are facing empty hallways, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. However, as some states begin to reopen and our home state, Illinois, allows some elective surgeries to take place, it is helpful to have a plan in place for reopening your practice.
Step 1: Evaluate what have you learned
You’ve heard, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” That means learning from a crisis to better prepare for the future. What has this crisis revealed to you? Perhaps your expanded experience with telemedicine has provided a new perspective of how to more efficiently provide care. Or maybe you are facing a return to business with new staff reductions and have been considering a work-around for patient intake. Whatever your takeaways have been, don’t let them disappear if and when we return to business as usual. Act on them to prepare and strengthen your practice!
Step 2: Anticipate and be proactive about patient concerns
Put your patient cap on. What will be of concern to patients as they consider coming to your practice for standard care? As a medical practice, one of your top concerns has always been the safety and sanitation of your office. How can you communicate to that commitment to patients? We recommend the following:
- Place signs and posters at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette
- Provide adequate hand sanitizer, wipes, masks, etc. and place in accessible locations
- Create a social distance friendly waiting room with 6 ft of spacing between chairs and in line locations. If this is not possible due to space constraints, consider having patients wait outside the office or in their vehicles and alerting them via text when their appointment time has arrived.
- Minimize non-clinical staff and patient interactions. You may consider kiosk or app-enabled check-in.
Step 3: Create a reassuring work environment for your staff
Your staff is the lifeblood of your practice. They are likely to have concerns about returning to work with the current situation. Be sure to clearly communicate with them about the steps you are taking to ensure their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the practice as a whole. Maintain an open line of communication where your staff feels comfortable sharing suggestions and concerns. Many essential workers have been reporting feelings of anxiety and depression.
Be alert to the mental health of your staff and check in with individuals often. Make sure to celebrate small victories as they arise to maintain morale.
Step 4: Prepare for Financial Recovery
There is no denying that your practice has likely taken a huge financial hit. Your staffing situation looks much different now than it did a few months ago, supplies are low and new ones slow to arrive. You may have a high level of patient bad debt and aged A/R as your patients face their own financial strains due to job loss or reduced income. Now is the time to put policies and procedures into place that will boost your operating income and aid in your practice recovery. You may consider adopting an automated payment system for consistent collection of copayments as well as a card-on-file policy for quick and easy payment of residual balances. The Health iPASS platform can help with these action items, as well as many more, with no setup or maintenance fees. Visit our website to request a demo.
Times are tough right now, it’s true. However, with the right plan in place, we hope your practice can come back stronger than ever.