Over the past couple of months, the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the traditional delivery of care. Some patients are avoiding clinical settings out of fear of catching the virus. But now that regions are starting to re-open, people are looking for guidance and comfort to re-engage. Provider organizations need to be proactive and drive revenue quickly by providing patients with reassurance that it is safe – and possibly lifesaving – to seek care and book appointments.
It’s time to start strategizing to reverse the economic impact of COVID-19 today and into the future. As a partner to hundreds of provider organizations, here are 6 expert tips for strategic growth:
1. Start Planning Your Strategic “Re-Opening” Now
As we start to get a sense of what re-opening will look like for doctors’ offices, clinics and other healthcare services, now is the time to anticipate and address critical questions about how business will resume. Do you know how you will fill appointments once non-essential visits are allowed? Will you proactively call patients, or will patients have to call you? Is your call center prepared to handle an influx of calls?
To get ahead of this, prioritize re-engagement with patients who delayed appointments or pre-op visits due to cancelled surgeries. Communicating with these individuals now will show them they are not forgotten and what your plan is to rebook. Also, consider proactively reaching out to all of your patients, especially your primary care ones, letting them know it is time to think about coming back in for an appointment. Avoiding a surge once stay-at-home orders are lifted is essential for ensuring efficient business flow and balance.
2. Retain Patients with Personalized Messaging
Now more than ever, people are hyper-inundated with information about various healthcare options in their community, including information about how to stay safe and to avoid non-essential trips. It is imperative that providers avoid generic messages when connecting with their patients to schedule appointments when in-person visits are allowed.
Sending patients a personalized letter directly from their physician will make them feel valued. Providers should inform their patients of when they will accept in-person appointments and how to schedule. Then, once the initial wave of communications is sent, analyze patient volume and develop a phase two strategy to drive new patients to those physicians with capacity.
3. Regain Lost Revenue by Focusing on High-Value Service Lines
Many appointments were delayed due to COVID-19, so anticipate a backlog of patients needing to be seen for chronic and preventive needs. Orthopedic, cardiovascular, bariatric and cancer screenings can lead to quick initial visits and additional downstream revenue.
During a time of crisis, it can be easy to forego preventive screenings or book consults for elective procedures. Having a strategy for reaching out to patients directly about chronic and preventive appointments will help make up lost revenue during the pandemic, and help ensure a full schedule of appointments.
4. Be the Safe Haven Patients Are Looking For
As people begin planning for physicals, screenings and elective surgeries, they’re going to have concerns about safety. Leverage your position as a local trusted source of healthcare information to communicate your commitment to your patients’ health and reinforce your organization as a safe place to have clinical visits.
To maintain and grow trust, give patients real information about what you’re doing to keep them safe when they visit your doctors’ offices, outpatient centers and hospitals. Share the protocols they will need to know before they come for visits. Finally, remind them about the importance of seeking care when they’re in need, especially for critical issues like chest pain or stroke symptoms.
5. Support Total Wellbeing to Drive Better Long-Term Health Outcomes
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a lot of unhealthy behaviors and habits, and impacting mental health and emotional wellbeing. Supporting all aspects of a patient’s health can contribute to improved outcomes by preventing unforeseen downstream issues.
Be empathetic and let your patients know you understand that COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of their lives, some more severely than others. Then, offer diverse types of resources and information that support their total wellbeing, depending on their individual situation. Lifestyle factors can greatly affect a person’s health, so taking those into account is crucial.
6. Focus on Healthcare Beyond COVID-19
People are actively seeking out news and information not related to COVID-19, as a way to get their mind off of the state of the world. Think about the interactions you can have with patients now to get them thinking about the care they will need once visits for non-essential healthcare services are possible.
There has been an increase in health risk assessment (HRA) completions during the time of social distancing. Use an HRA to engage people in determining their future healthcare needs and risk. Use multi-channel communications like email, direct mail and digital to invite them to take an online HRA and then to follow up with them for a visit once the immediate COVID-19 crisis is over.
With depleted and divided resources, it is critical for organizations to leverage technology and partners to execute campaigns quickly. To drive return on investment, interactions with patients need to be personalized based on their situation, concerns and considerations in mind. Unfortunately, this “new normal” will exist for a while, so it’s important to be able to communicate with patients effectively and get them reengaged with your services.