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Preparing for “after COVID-19” – how can healthcare providers get ready for the pandemic’s re-scheduling aftermath?

The novel coronavirus pandemic crisis of 2020 has plunged the healthcare system, and frankly the whole economy, into a dark place. It will take time, and likely a lot of time, to overcome what may end up being several months of a national shut down.

Eventually people will re-emerge from isolation, business will resume a new normal, and healthcare providers will turn their attention to the revenue generating services that they temporarily halted, as well as the patients who delayed care for a myriad of conditions. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published “phase one” re-opening recommendations that recognized in some areas the possibility of non-COVID-19 care is already being considered. There will be an overflow of pent-up demand and provider organizations need to position themselves now to be ready. One consideration, with many health systems now feeling the squeeze and not being able to re-deploy staff to serve in the crisis, is to use some of those resources and prepare for the next phase.

Here are few strategies to get ahead of the curve, if you will, as it flattens:

  • Reschedule appointments – Literally hundreds of appointments– for some providers, thousands – that had been cancelled or delayed will require rescheduling. Deploying an omni-channel scheduling platform now can relieve the pressure of that future volume in several ways: 
    • Online scheduling can guide patients to the right care with rules automation, allowing patients to accurately self-book and reducing call center volume.
    • Enable patient scheduling via automated outreach messages sent via text message or IVR. (For example, you can target all those who need to reschedule, reaching them via text campaigns and reducing call center workload).
    • Reduce training time with a call center scheduling solution. Agents (such as temps hired to handle the influx of appointments) can be trained in a matter of hours to schedule and book appointments accurately.
  • Harden your telehealth offering – This crisis has shown the necessity for virtual visit technology during a pandemic; however, its value won’t disappear as the crisis fades. Telehealth is destined to become a staple of healthcare delivery. Restrictions have been lifted and the technology has proven practical, convenient and efficient, paving the way for broad acceptance. But what are the digital complements that can be paired with telehealth to harden the solution and make the offering a robust tool into the future? While many providers are now able to offer this type of virtual care, scheduling across a variety of specialties has become a challenge. A  tool that guides patients and call center agents to the right provider across all services, including telehealth, is going to be critical in the months ahead to maintaining scheduling efficiency and delivering an optimal patient experience.
  • Establish your digital front door – Patients aren’t going to want only clinical telehealth options; the whole spectrum of patient-provider interaction is shifting. Scheduling, registration, payments – all these are going to see increased demand for digital self-service. This gets patients out of the waiting room and removes the need to swipe or insert a credit card or use a POS kiosk. Patients, who are consumers, want to use their mobile devices and they will form lasting opinions of those services enabling – or restricting – their ability to do that.
  • Collections optimization – Right now the focus is on caring for patients, as it should be; however, in order to continue operating, providers must collect for the services rendered. Putting in systems that automate collections processes and reduce the human resources necessary to bring in revenue will to be key to capitalizing on the rush of non-COVID-19 care that will soon be required.

These are just a few of the ways that healthcare providers can deploy digital technology to prepare and turn this looming challenge into opportunity. The reality is that managing patient engagement and collections through this next phase is critical to the U.S. healthcare ecosystem’s recovery. Organizations that emerge stronger will be those that prepare now and are ready when the time comes.

Find out more about patient engagement solutions that can help you respond now and prepare for the future.