As we all try to find our way back to some resemblance of normalcy, physician practices are searching for strategies for reopening their medical practice. However, as one would expect, things are far from business-as-usual. The fears of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening are real. Although physicians want to be more accessible to their communities, there will have to be significant changes in the way patients are handled before they visit, and during their time at the medical office. As you reopen your medical practice for visitors, here are three practice management strategies to consider.
Balance Telemedicine with In-Person Visits
The first strategy for reopening your medical practice during COVID-19 is to balance telemedicine visits with in-person visits. Over the last three months, there was an unprecedented surge in telemedicine and other online services such as patient portals. Even patients who had resisted making a telehealth service appointment were more willing to do so now. What happens now that you reopen your medical practice for in-person visits?
The situation remains dynamic. Therefore, any patient scheduling strategy you deploy will hold good for probably only the next few months. It’s important to continue to use telemedicine as much as possible, and only invite those patients to the clinic who must be seen in-person. These could be people on your chronic-care list or those who have developed potentially chronic health concerns over the last few months.
Patients contacting your practice for the first time, or existing patients seeking an appointment for a first-time medical condition, must be first guided through the telemedicine channel.
Prep Your Practice to Receive Patients
The second strategy for reopening your medical practice during COVID-19 is to prep your practice by utilizing a checklist to receive patients. MGMA has created a detailed checklist you can reference as you reopen your medical practice. The practice reopening checklist covers the following:
- What practice employees and patients can expect – Wearing protective gear at all times, sanitizing the office after each patient, social distancing, and determining what patients you will see in-person on priority.
- Financial management – Evaluating practice expenses versus expected revenues, resuming collections activity, and evaluating payment collection methods.
- Human resource management – Looking at staffing requirements with reduced in-office patient traffic, rostering, the physical spacing of workstations, routine employee health-checks, and evaluating if employees want to join back.
- Operational management – Inventory management of drugs and PPE, disposal of PPE, and identifying a separate zone for possible COVID-19 patients.
Communicate Constantly with Vendors, Employees, and Clients
The third strategy for reopening your medical practice during COVID-19 is to communicate constantly with vendors, employees, and clients.
When you are used to running an established medical practice, you can take things for granted. For instance, you assume that your suppliers understand when to expect payments, patients know how to prepare for a hospital visit, and employees understand their jobs. But the change has been unnerving for everyone, and now more than ever before, you need to assume a business leadership role. You must constantly communicate with everyone to ensure that concerns are addressed.
Vendors must have knowledge when they can expect payments. Employees face a heightened risk of contracting the virus, and so you must evaluate their willingness to come back to work. Once you start receiving patients, ensure that your staff fully understands the safety precautions to be taken. Check with staff on how they are coping with the added stress of working in these uncertain times.
With patients, the focus must be on ensuring they spend minimal time at the practice. That may require that only one patient enters the clinic at a time. Ensure that patients understand what to expect when they come to your medical office, including the cost of the visit and their payment liabilities.
Some patients who need medical care may be scared to step foot inside a doctor’s office. Use multiple online channels (website, social media, emails) to communicate with your client base on the changes implemented to protect patients visiting the practice. If you can, supplement that effort with a phone call to patients explaining why it’s safe to visit you if the need arises.
As you move forward with reopening your medical practice during COVID-19, you will hopefully see a resumption of some level of patient traffic. But it’s realistic to assume that it will take a long time for revenues to reach even 70 percent of the pre-pandemic levels. In times like these, it’s essential that you have a robust charge-capture system, prompt payment collections, and capable accounts receivables management.
If you are reopening your medical practice during COVID -19, now is the time to consider outsourcing your medical billing to an experienced revenue management partner.
If you have any strategies for reopening a medical practice during COVID-19 that are not mentioned in this blog, please do share in the comments below and we will add them to the list!