By Dr. Tashfeen Ekram
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial losses practices face are real.
Between having to cancel elective procedures, patients being unable to visit clinics due to stay-at-home orders, added expenses to acquire protective gear, and other obstacles, a majority of healthcare clinics are experiencing significant financial strain. We continue to see more and more examples like this one: Seattle-based UW Medicine expects to see financial losses in excess of $500 million by the end of the summer due to a dip in clinical revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To offset losses, healthcare clinics are implementing pay cuts and furloughs. But those are often akin to a band-aid solution to a much larger problem, and leaves the underlying issues unsolved. As we look to reopening plans and a potential second wave, it’s important that clinics implement sound and action-oriented strategies that minimize the damage and set a more solid foundation for an uncertain future.
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Here are four steps healthcare organizations can take to begin the process of financially recovering from COVID-19.
One: Prompt patients to reschedule canceled appointments
Recovering money that was lost due to canceled appointments during the shutdown is crucial. One way to do that is to reach out to patients with a reminder — and an easy process — to reschedule. With so many cancelations, the easiest way to do that is by sending a mass message to all patients whose appointments were canceled (rather than manually sending a message to each individual).
Within that single message, you can include a link for patients to self-schedule their appointments, preventing your staff from having to spend their time on the phones and giving your patients more control over scheduling. In addition to prompting patients to reschedule their appointments, messages can include screening questionnaires that help prioritize which patients need to be seen first, and whether patients have any symptoms of COVID-19.
Two: Enable seamless screening
Your website can be used to pre-screen patients – saving time and resources. As more people look to reschedule their appointments, it’s important to screen for COVID-19 symptoms to ensure the health and safety of office staff and other patients. By automating processes and making information available digitally, you can drastically reduce the time office staff needs to spend on these tasks – and fit into most patients’ preference for digital interactions.