You know the reality: COVID-19 is here to stay for now. The goal facing us all now is how to move forward, and your practice is no different. Even with the risk of the virus, the world, and your practice, must be prepared to face a new reality.
How can you do this successfully?
You need to develop a strategy that prepares yourself and your practice for the challenges to come.
Let’s examine the six steps to get this done:
- Focus on Patient Safety – Your patients are the lifeblood of your practice. Your number one priority is to ensure they stay, and feel, safe when visiting your office. Following federal guidelines on preparing your practice is one of the best ways to achieve safety. You also must communicate your safety practices with your patients. Post signs, spread the message across your marketing channels, and make sure your employees know everything you are doing to keep your patients healthy so they understand, follow through, and can answer questions.
- Keep Your Staff Healthy – Speaking of your employees, you must make sure they feel safe and secure working in your office as well. Not only do you need to keep them safe for their good, but if the front desk receptionist or the tech taking vitals show signs of nervousness, your patients may feel uneasy about coming back to your practice. Worse, they can spread the message that your practice is not where people should go. Put your staff at ease by letting them know the practices and policies you are implementing to keep everyone safe. Create an environment of communication where everyone feels comfortable expressing concerns to you or other members of your management team. Allow your staff to share potentially helpful tips or information.
- Telehealth is Here to Stay – You hate to declare someone or something a “winner” during a pandemic that has (at the date of publication) claimed over 100,000 American lives. That said, with regard to the medical industry, telehealth has come out ahead during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2019, only 11% of Americans used telehealth. During the pandemic, that number has jumped to 46%. An easing of regulations allowed providers to use telemedicine areas not previously available. While it is likely that we will see at least a small retightening of restrictions as the country opens up, they will NOT go back to pre-COVID-19 levels. The genie is out of the bottle, and preparing your practice to handle more telehealth visits is vital. You have to think, on an operations level, how to handle an increase in these types of visits.
- Coding and Billing – We broke this down into two parts: general coding and billing and COVID-19 coding and billing. Let’s look at them individually:
- General – Your coding and billing procedures have always been important. Now, as your office tries to get back on its feet, how and when you get paid for services rendered becomes even more important. You cannot wait for weeks or even months to get paid, and you probably will not have the time it takes to resubmit claims. Take some time to review how often claims were denied before the pandemic so you can root out the cause. Look into your prior authorizations. Work with your coding and billing team to try to make this process as streamlined as possible.
- COVID-19 – If you are providing any services related to COVID-19, you must understand how to submit claims correctly. CMS has released guidelines for this. We suggest that you search for and study these guidelines so your knowledge and practices are up-to-date.
- Rethink the Patient Experience – We touched on an aspect of the patient experience with safety. But as important as safety is, it does not encompass the entirety of the issue. Create the best possible experience for your patients by rethinking the experience you want your patients to have. Your patients may be more nervous than usual, or even scared. Part of your job as a healthcare provider is to ease those concerns as much as you can. For your practice, this could look like funneling people towards telehealth so they do not have to visit your office in person. For those who need an in-office visit, make sure your staff understands their expectations in terms of the healthcare they are receiving.
- Remain Flexible – This pandemic is an evolving situation, which means things like regulations, patient expectations, people’s attitudes, etc. are likely to change. Remain flexible so your practice is able to respond quickly to changes on the ground. Set the tone with your staff by keeping a positive attitude and asking them to help you keep on-top of the current and future needs and demands of the field.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a brave new world. For your practice to succeed in this current reality, you must prepare yourself by thinking strategically.