As Texas reopened its economy and enters the second phase, many private practices have remained open while others are reopening from scratch. Either way, all practices now face a new normal and a game plan that meets the needs of their patients.
Providers see ”safety” as the number one concern and they also see the need to execute a sound plan. The effects of COVID are reflected on the changes of policies and procedures practices are experiencing now. For instance, changing phone scripts, new triage protocols, new telehealth workflow, new patient education material, financial management, managing influx of patient volume, in-office visits, billing, marketing strategies are just a few items in the guidelines and the resource links listed below.
Reopening Plan Guidelines
Manage influx of patient volume
For the next 2-3 months your schedule will be the best asset in your practice.
- Phone efficiency and phone etiquette – Review current policies and adjust accordingly. Use phone tree for efficiency.
- Online appointments – Key feature moving forward, so patients can book their own appointments. Leverage your website so patients can request appointments online and fill out intake forms. Promote use of patient portal.
- Cancellations and no-shows – When volumes are high this does not hurt financially, but now with limited in-office visits it is critical to reschedule cancellations and no-shows right away.
- Reminders – Reduce cancellations and no-shows by staying on top of appointment reminders and be sure to use your patient’s preferred method of communication. Include in the reminders steps to stay safe, like filling out intake forms online to minimize exposure while in the waiting room, take measures to protect themselves as well as others and the staff when coming in
New Critical Processes
Reopening in phases is better than all at once.
- Prioritize based on the services you offer to meet the most critical needs of the patients.
- Have on hand new relevant patient education for this transition.
- Ensure new COVID billing codes are updated.
- Have a plan in place in case a staff member must work from home.
- Consider outsourcing your billing so you and your staff can focus on safety for patients and staff.
- Implement new policies for high risk patients. Offer Telehealth and Revise schedule for when to see these patients.
- Review schedule to ensure patients practice social distance in the waiting rooms.
Effective Marketing Strategies
This is a new territory for all, however transparency and clear communication with your patients is key to come out on top
- Publish reopening dates – Post them in your website, even if the practice has remained open all this time. if COVID has forced new hours be sure the new hours are reflected everywhere.
- Patient’s preferred method – Phone, email, or text. This is essential and demonstrates your practice cares.
- Responsiveness – Empower someone to stay on top of new protocols to respond back to patient’s questions. Lack of response is the quickest way to lose a patient.
- Personalize your marketing messages – Share your heart, be vulnerable and let them know you’ve been impacted as well. Reach out to patients you see more often, as well as those you have not seen in a long time, however, customize the messages accordingly and lift the patients up.
- Educate thru marketing – The purpose for wearing a mask, social distance, if fever or symptoms not to come in etc.
- Online reputation management –Your practice needs positive reviews now and post-COVID as online reviews gain acceptance as the standard research to select a doctor. Leverage patient visits to get to know the patient better and always ask them to visit your website and post a review.
How Telehealth fits into your practice
If your practice does offer Telehealth today, it must.
- Encounter without exposure –Telehealth is simple to implement, and it blends in with your current flow. You may need to setup quiet spaces in the office or buy minimum equipment. Even if you only have a smart phone, you can get started, so there is no real reason for not implementing telehealth visits for your patients and it reduces exposure to liability. Great for marketing by letting patients know that if they have concerns of exposure, they can still see the doctor from the comfort of their home.
- Integrated Telehealth brings many benefits to both your patient and your offices. For example, getting co-pays upfront, filling out intake forms and determine if the patient needs to come in or not. Telehealth also increases the number of visits per day per provider and grows the patient base.
- Reimbursements are the same as in-office visits
The above is a condensed version of an E-Book published by Advanced MD. Contact me if interested in receiving a free copy of the full version.
More on Telehealth from the CDC guidance
Healthcare facilities will likely need to adjust the way they triage, assess, and care for patients by using methods that do not rely on face-to-face care.
Promoting the increased use of telehealth
- Healthcare facilities can increase the use of telephone management and other remote methods of triaging, assessing, and caring for all patients to decrease the volume of persons seeking care in facilities.
- If a formal telehealth system is not available, healthcare providers can still communicate with patients by telephone instead of in person visits which will reduce the number of those who seek face-to-face care.
- Health plans, healthcare systems, and insurers/payors should communicate with beneficiaries to promote the availability of covered telehealth, telemedicine, or nurse advice line services.
The future of Telehealth according to article from Becker’s Hospital Review
The Wall Street Journal reported in “The Doctor Will Zoom You Now” that CMS telehealth visits went from 100,000 per week to 300,000 per week as of March 28, and the agency expects that to increase.
“I think the genie’s out of the bottle on this one,” Seema Verma, the CMS administrator, said. “I think it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”
CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again May 2020
Additional Resources and Downloads
CDC Guidelines publish on Wednesday May/20
The “ CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again” recently published by the CDC (May/2020) is a great resource to help guide you in setting up your “new normal” policies and procedures for your practice.
MGMA Medical Practice Reopening Checklist
Additionally, the MGMA (Medical Group Management Association)https://www.mgma.com/ has issued a comprehensive Reopening Checklist.