Post-Pandemic Healthcare Operations: Are You Ready?

Many organizations have begun to settle into the “new normal.” Suspended services are beginning to ramp back up, but with restrictions. Telehealth visits are becoming the expectation, but not without some challenges. Patient experience is shifting, but not without concern of what the future holds. All of these concerns are not only areas of consideration in our current state, but also for the future of healthcare as an industry as we begin to look to the post-pandemic recovery stage.

The game hasn’t changed, the rules have

Healthcare organizations across the United States must begin to think beyond the coming months. As the rules are constantly changing for healthcare organizations and providers due to COVID-19, the game of healthcare delivery has not changed. Many organizations hold mission statements that more often than not express language such as improving the health of the surrounding community, striving for excellence in patient care, and ensuring care is accessible to all patients. These mission statements are at the core of what hospitals and providers strive to accomplish every day. In order to uphold mission statements and manage the restrictions COVID-19 has placed, healthcare organizations must begin looking ahead into the recovery stages of the pandemic to plan for the needs of their patients, providers and community.

Sustainable care delivery

We all had to pivot quickly when COVID-19 hit our communities. Appointments were cancelled, and service lines closed abruptly. As we transition into the “new normal” and begin to open back up, it is important to consider that payers and insurance companies are not necessarily the parties that will put restrictions on care delivery. Rather, it may be the patients’ medical needs and sustaining expectations.

As services reopen, consider the following in order to continue to deliver a patient-centric approach:

  • Extending Hours: Consider extending the hours of your practice or service line to accommodate increased access and staggered scheduling, and to allow for ample space between appointments.
  • Multi-Disciplinary Approach: Begin thinking about how you can help your patients minimize the number of times they have to visit your facility. Are you able to coordinate with other clinics and provide a “one-stop shop” experience for your patients? This approach will not only allow for safer practices, it will be a patient satisfier.
  • Financial Counseling: Are you able to reallocate staff to support financial counseling? With the unemployment rates at a record high, there is likely to be a greater need to help patients navigate through the system.
  • Emergency Department (ED) Redesign: The prevalence of tents outside of EDs during this crisis is motivating us to think about re-envisioning the intake and triage process in EDs. Moving forward, we will need easy ways to triage patients before they even enter the department. Are there teletriage options your organization could leverage? How can we limit physical contact and provide multiple entry points or waiting areas based on medical needs?

Is telehealth here to stay?

Many visits have transitioned to a virtual setting.  COVID-19 has highlighted the need to invest in, and scale, to a digitalized world. It is time to think that this virtual world we quickly transitioned to is likely here to stay.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to better understand if your current telehealth systems are sustainable:

  • Is your technology sustainable and efficient, or have you had challenges delivering quality care to your patients?
  • Are your workflows requiring adjustments to sustain front-end practices or delivery of care? Does your team need further training?
  • Are your scheduling practices effective? Are your providers able to maximize their time with the proper balance of telehealth and in-person visits?
  • Is your community prepared? Do the patients you serve have proper access to technology and internet connectivity?
  • The most important question: Have you asked your patients what their preference is? You may find that a certain population or visit type is more drawn to utilizing telehealth than others. This will help drive responses to all of the above.

The patient experience

So long are the days of multiple visitors in a waiting room, embracing your clinician after a positive prognosis, and spending extra time by a loved one’s bedside. It is important to always consider the impact COVID-19 has not only had on healthcare organizations and providers, but also patients. As we move into the post-pandemic recovery phase, we need to be sure to continue to focus our efforts on the patient experience.

  • Communication: Being transparent with your patients regarding policies, procedures and any changes to appointments will build and maintain trust in resuming appointments and/or treatment. If you have not already done so, consider developing scripting for your call center team(s) and your front desk personnel. Think about signage, and be thoughtful with language.
  • Expectations: Expectations have shifted in light of COVID-19, and they are likely to remain. Patients have adjusted to the frequent communication, telehealth services and efficient scheduling. It is likely that we, as a healthcare industry, will have to permanently adjust to these expectations and ways to deliver care.

Now what?

Gather and document all of the changes you made when you had to quickly pivot and adjust your operation. Review what went well and what could have gone better. There is always a chance we will have to adjust again in the future. Taking into consideration what you learned, think of where you are able to permanently adjust your operations to set yourself up for long-term success as we transition into the post-pandemic recovery phase. Be sure to include both your front line staff and clinicians in these discussions to ensure everyone is in agreement, in order to support sustainable changes.

Your BNN advisors are always here to help and guide you through these challenging times.

Disclaimer of Liability: This publication is intended to provide general information to our clients and friends. It does not constitute accounting, tax, investment, or legal advice; nor is it intended to convey a thorough treatment of the subject matter.

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