The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a unique series of challenges to private healthcare practices. From basic practice operations to marketing and strategy, practice owners are faced with having to manage it all in a rapidly changing environment, week after week.
Use these five strategies to keep your patient pipeline healthy as you move through the evolving stages of business survival, stabilization, and eventual growth. With the right planning, you can maintain your well-being today and be ready to adapt when the pandemic begins to abate.
Adjust these strategies as needed to stay ahead of your competition, stay open, and help your patients and community in need.
Keep communicating with your existing and potential patients during this time, to let them know how you’re seeing patients right now. With a commitment to the health and safety of your community, this may be through telehealth appointments or a mixture of telehealth services and in-person visits in some areas as stay-at-home orders are lifted. If you plan to offer in-person appointments soon or have begun to do so, tell patients about the specific steps you’re taking to keep them and their loved ones safe at your office.
The pandemic presents scenarios that are fluid, and may require a one step forward, two steps back approach. Keep refining your rapid response plan during this time. The regulations and requirements in your state (or even your municipality) may change, and your financial status may change along with them. Be ready to adapt.
Know the specific chain of command your practice will use throughout the course of the pandemic, through re-opening for non-essential or non-emergency procedures, and beyond. Assign a “response team,” Ensure they and the rest of your staff communicate with each other, and have an official monitoring plan in place to evaluate business procedures on a daily basis.
Throughout this period of rapid decision-making, remember that the safety of your patients, providers, and staff is what’s most important.
Map out response procedures ahead of time so real-time responses can be avoided whenever possible. For example, what process will you follow, and how will you notify patients, if you partially or fully reopen your practice, and a provider tests positive for COVID-19? Will you be able to continue with daily operations, or need to postpone them again for a while? Have the answers to those questions ready, even if they never need to be asked.
Digital tools, including a telehealth platform, can help keep your practice busy with patient visits even if you aren’t physically in your office. Most likely, your practice will benefit from a combination of telehealth and in-person visits, as the national emergency lifts and well beyond. Continue to communicate with your staff and patients about the availability of telehealth at your practice, and when virtual care is a viable choice versus an in-person visit.
You can refer to the American Medical Association’s quick guide to telemedicine in practice for COVID-19-related updates on telehealth implementation, policy, coding, payment, and more. For practices that plan to start offering non-essential care again, the AMA has resources to guide practices through non-essential care during COVID-19.
Do you currently offer telehealth appointments? Are you limiting office visits to emergency services only? What are your practice’s plans after the national emergency is lifted?
Through the duration of the crisis and beyond, make sure your marketing and advertising focus on the medical terms and keywords that reflect your current business operations, whether that includes a focus on telehealth or the types of medical procedures you’re conducting at this time.
Patients have a bit more time to research their healthcare options online right now, and you’ll want your practice to show up in their search inquiries. To optimize your web presence, you can create specialized content that answers their questions during and after the pandemic, and positions you as an expert for immediate and future care. The following are helpful for patients:
Seeing your practice through the COVID-19 pandemic will yield a long-term gain. Over the next few years, we will undoubtedly witness dramatic changes in healthcare technology, patient trends, patient preferences, and government regulations — all of which will have an effect on the way your practice operates and delivers care.
Practices that succeed will innovate, and move with the changes. The shift to telehealth services is a perfect example: Right now, the pandemic has created a demand for telehealth, unlike anything we’ve seen before. If you’re not currently set up for telehealth, now is the time to integrate it into your short- and long-term business plan.
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