Re-imagining the Future of Healthcare: 5 Actions to Implement for Revenue Recovery in the “New Normal”
Tashfeen Ekram, MD
Across the country, nearly all states have entered the de-escalation stage of the COVID-19 pandemic: non-essential activities are gradually resuming and healthcare practices are cautiously re-opening their doors. For many providers, the focus has now shifted to the measures they must take to financially recover.
As we collectively begin to discern what this “new normal” could look like, there are five best practices that healthcare providers of all types — from health systems to primary care, specialty clinics and FQHCs — can implement almost immediately to begin the journey of revenue recovery.
There are 5 best practices that healthcare providers can implement to begin the journey of revenue recovery as they reopen.
Because every provider is unique, the application of these best practices could look very different from one office to the next; but regardless of your practice type, this list provides a concrete set of actions your business can take to chart its own course.
1. Balance Revenue and Clinical Requirements
As healthcare providers, we recognize that the COVID-19 shutdown has pushed out critical patient appointments.
In every practice, regardless of specialty, there will be a subset of patients who will need to be seen as quickly as possible because they are particularly vulnerable, are suffering from multiple comorbidities, or have a condition that requires immediate assessment. Regardless of the value of these procedures, it is imperative that they be seen.
As a counterbalance, many practices will simultaneously want to prioritize the high value procedures that can help drive critical revenues after the unexpected financial shock of the pandemic.
Getting revenue flowing can be especially important for those “hands-on” practices where opportunities to convert appointments to telehealth have been more limited.
Making sure your scheduling – and rescheduling – policies and priorities take both of these requirements into account will be important for practices of all types and sizes to emerge into a sustainable future.
Of particular value is looking to areas where these requirements intersect – the “sweet spot” where critical medical need also generates revenue or delivers alternative success metrics.
2. Manage Social Distancing in Waiting Rooms
One of the biggest concerns most patients have about coming back into the office for an appointment, is how the clinic will manage the check-in and waiting room experience in light of the public health best practices required to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Obviously there are some waiting room configuration changes that can take place, like reducing the seats in the waiting area, removing magazines and check-in kiosks, and having hygiene supports like disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer readily available.
In addition to these “low-tech” changes, medical practices can also use technology to create what we like to call the infinite waiting room. The Luma Health app allows patients to check-in for their appointment via their phone, and then wait in the safety of their cars until it’s time for them to proceed directly to an exam room.
This allows patients to skip the waiting room entirely, and makes it easier for practices to manage patient flow while keeping face-to-face interactions to a minimum.
3. Keep Appointment Calendars at Maximum Capacity
Capacity management is somewhat related to waiting room management, but it focuses on optimizing in-office appointment scheduling, telehealth visits, and individual patient care requirements.
For many practices, it will be important to get certain patients into the office as soon as possible. Yet at the same time, there are certain patient populations that will have a harder time adjusting to the new healthcare environment that has emerged in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practices must develop models that allow these patients to access the care they need without undue burden. For example, older adults tend to use more healthcare services than younger groups, and the majority of them have at least one chronic condition that requires care.
Many of these patients will need to get to a clinic to see their care providers in-office, yet there are several factors that make this more difficult: first, older adults are at greater risk from COVID-19 infections, so ensuring limited contact with other individuals is of paramount importance; second, older adults are more likely to have a lower ambulatory capacity, so asking them to walk distances to the clinic because valet parking is no longer available, or having them use curbside care followed by an office visit can present significant difficulties for this population.
When examining the best way to accommodate care, practices should develop processes that ensure patients are able to access their care with the assistance they require.
This could mean designating certain days or hours within your schedule for senior care only, creating different visit procedures for patients with reduced mobility, or having reserved telehealth and in-office days that rotate for different providers within your practice.
Whatever model you choose, it will be important to balance patient needs and revenue recovery requirements.
4. Emphasize and Adapt Patient Communication Strategies
After years of relative status quo, there has been dramatic upheaval in how care has been provided in the last three to four months. As a result, it will be essential to communicate to patients what they can expect from their appointments and interactions moving forward.
At Luma Health, we’ve seen that it takes an average of 2.2 outreaches to drive patient behavior. That means telling patients once about a new process or procedure for appointment booking and follow-ups won’t be effective.
Practices will need to deliver a cadence of communications to help patients adapt to new ways of accessing care. And the messaging you deploy may need to vary depending on particular segments within your patient population.
In the case of the example used earlier, you may want to send a different set of messages to patients who are elderly, or have various comorbidities that make them particularly vulnerable.
You might also want to segment your patient population into those who need to come in for an office visit, versus those who can remain on televisits. Fortunately, with easy-to-deploy EHR integrations, getting the right messages out to the right audiences can be relatively straight-forward.
Read this eBook for more ideas on revenue recovery campaigns your practice can implement today
5. Implement Virtual Care and Remote Monitoring Strategies
It’s worth noting that 7 out of 10 patients want to be able to email or text their care providers. Secure chat functionality makes this possible, allowing your practice to engage more frequently with your patients through asynchronous HIPAA-compliant chat.
Through secure chat, you can also remotely monitor your patients between visits with
mobile screenings and health assessments. These features allow your practice to better monitor patient health virtually and enable patients to engage with you on their terms.
Again, looking at the example used earlier, you might want to consider sending regular assessments to elderly patients or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes. These HIPAA-compliant, remote monitoring tools can be sent via text or email, and patient inputs automatically sync with your EHR to ensure providers always have up-to-date information about the patient’s condition.
With remote patient monitoring, you can determine when changes in health status warrant a text-based check-in, a call from a care coordinator, or a telehealth appointment. This between-visit patient engagement strategy enables you to keep patients on track with treatment plans, reduce hospital admissions, and improve patient health outcomes.
Plus, interactions with patients via secure chat can often be billed, offering an alternative revenue stream while simultaneously supporting better patient healthcare delivery.
Whether you’re a single provider working on your own, or an administrator at a large health system, the impacts of COVID-19 on patient care and revenues have likely been sizable. Now, as we shift to recovery mode, taking action to re-imagine your practice in a way that prioritizes revenue recovery and patient experience is important.
Patients have gotten a taste of new ways healthcare can be delivered. Now is the time to re-imagine the future of healthcare. Contact us to walk through the transformative actions that can lead to success in this new normal.
Recovering Financially from COVID-19
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