Medical practices and hospital clinics are laser-focused on maintaining patient care, protecting staff from the spread of COVID-19 and financial security during the pandemic. With these concerns top of mind, it’s important to start planning now for your return to full operations. Below are areas of consideration when developing your plan.
1. When your office calls to reschedule cancelled patient appointments, you may consider prioritizing patients several ways: reason for the visit, acuity, length of illness, condition, age of patient, support network, social determinants, and if they are homebound or lack transportation. Consider the follow-up needs of the patient such as point-of-care testing to close care gaps, referrals to specialists, or access to lab and radiology services.
- For the established patient, determine which individuals need to be seen in person and if they can be seen by other members of the person’s care team, or if they have to be seen by you. Consider alternative visits such as telehealth, home visit or nurse visit. Patients with multiple chronic health conditions or single complicated conditions may best be served to see their primary provider. Less-complicated patients or those who want to be seen sooner may have their needs met by others on the care team (i.e., nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health coaches or other specialists). It’s important the patient understand the wait time and option available to be seen to ensure patient satisfaction.
- For the new patient, consider temporarily adding time into your schedule to reduce the wait time. Determine if you can add patient appointments early in the morning, at the end of the day, on a Saturday morning or as an evening session. Delivering care to new patients brings revenue to the practice, contributes to ancillaries, increases RVU production, and generates referrals to specialists and follow-up appointments.
2. Develop a pre-visit data collection protocol at the time of scheduling to screen patients who may be COVID-19 positive. Determine if you will assess these patients in your office or refer them to a centralized location within your network. One advantage of segregating these patients from your office is limiting the unintentional spread of the virus. A disadvantage of directing patients out of your office is that other providers may not be familiar with the patient’s history, which may/may not contribute to a COVID-19 diagnosis and the opportunity is missed to address other medical issues.
3. Be proactive in sharing changes to the office on the phone and with signage. Scripting for staff members can help them explain new procedures such as the wearing of face masks to patients.
4. Consider changes in the office that may be required because of new social distancing guidelines. Identify changes to shared spaces such as waiting rooms, break rooms, clean/dirty rooms, reception (check-in and checkout), exam rooms, bathrooms, hallways, time clocks, parking areas and supply closets. Use tape on the floor to indicate flow. Determine the optimal number and locations for gloves, gowns and masks. Have zero tolerance for non-compliant behaviors. Encourage providers/staff to wash their hands or use sanitizer in the exam room and in front of patients. Determine how you will keep patient care areas and bathrooms clean and sanitary throughout the day.
5. Update your budget (expense and revenue) projections and re-forecast as needed. Ensure you have enough medical supplies based on the projected volumes. Adjust ordering to reflect increased volume rather than stockpiling or hoarding supplies. To control costs, develop “par” levels or thresholds and adjust as patient volumes increase.
Planning your comeback requires careful and thoughtful consideration for working with patients and staff moving forward. Impact Advisors is committed to helping clients achieve revenue cycle and operational excellence by aligning people, process and technology. The firm’s experts are certified across all leading vendors and follow Impact Advisors’ best practice revenue cycle methodologies. Our revenue cycle services are proven to have a positive and sustainable impact on clients’ financial performance, technology utilization, and employee and patient satisfaction.