COVID-19: Is your practice prepared for the second wave?
For many health specialists, a second wave of COVID-19 infections isn’t a matter of if – but when – and how bad it will be. And some epidemiologists believe the second wave may already be underway. Is your practice prepared?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has taken coordinated, swift and decisive action to protect and support the health and well-being of people across the country. The government is continuing its gradual, staged approach to reopening, restarting the economy and easing the necessary restrictions that were put in place to contain the spread of the COVID‑19 outbreak. Our fight against this deadly virus is far from over. Everyone must continue to be vigilant and follow public health advice and workplace safety guidelines. This will help limit outbreaks and reduce the risk of undoing the significant progress we have made together over the past several months.
How to prepare your practice for a second wave of corona virus:
As medical practices work to return to pre-COVID-19 volumes and revenues, there remains a need to plan for a potential downturn later in 2020 if a resurgence of coronavirus forces new shutdown orders for parts of the economy or stay-at-home orders for your patient population.
1. Money matters
Remaining financially solvent after months of reduced volumes and revenues is still a top priority. Rebuilding capital reserves should be a major focus in preparation for getting back to pre-pandemic levels and in preparation for another downturn.
“It’s important to consider extending measures to curtail nonessential spending expenses longer than initially envisioned”.
2. Make your staff and patients feel safe
Numerous physicians, clinical team members and staff may still be wary of returning to clinics, especially in areas where COVID-19 infections are spiking again. The reluctance to return to work for more cautious team members can disrupt plans for resuming or expanding operations.
All practice managers should be able to communicate that they have “an ironclad, COVID-proof” practice that complies with the latest guidance from federal and local health agencies. “Once the employees feel that it’s a safe place to return to … they’ll want to return,” Providers who may not be comfortable with returning to the clinic should be prime candidates for shifting toward telehealth services from the safety of their home office.
3. Optimize the use of technology
A Cloud based Clinic Management system like Patient7, allows your staff to do their work from anywhere they have an internet connection. It reduces your IT costs by shifting operations to the EMR provider. You don’t have to worry about backups, security or updates to servers anymore.
As part of your ongoing efforts to reduce the spread, clinics can maintain their patient bookings by implementing online booking in their clinics. The clinic can determine their availability per day, for each practitioner. Patients can review the available dates and times, in the convenience of their homes, and book what works for them.
No more sitting on hold, no more tying up your phone lines, no more negotiating schedules with your staff- let your patients have the freedom to book their own appointments.
Your staff can just confirm the appointment in the Patient7 scheduler, which sends a confirmation message directly back to the patient.
Appointment reminders can be sent via email or sms text, that include the date, time, location, name of practitioner, and even a Google map link to help them find you. You can include information like “Please remember to bring a list of your medication, and supplements.” Or even “ Please remember to bring your shoes for an orthotic dispensing.”
The outgoing message to your patients, can be customized to your business.
4. Optimize your cloud
Many technological solutions added on an interim basis for telehealth, might be ready for re-evaluation, and that now is the time to review your needs.
Similarly, this is the right time to work on making as many “mission-critical applications” available via the cloud so that the right staff and providers can access them easily while working remotely.
“Connectivity is king,” “softphones,” which can make calls via the internet or rely on users’ cell service, are an area to consider implementing to promote ease of communication on your team. “Collaboration is key, and it’s not just video,” Microsoft Teams remains free for use and helpful for managing chats, meetings and file-sharing.
Staff who are working remotely are excellent options for testing your virtual private network (VPN) and other systems for latency and any lags. “Test those systems with employees working from home before we’re all forced to work from home” when a second wave hits.
5. Defend your practice’s online reputation
Many patients may have “very distinct” stances about issues, such as wearing masks and social distancing, which could lead to negative comments about the practice on review sites.
Be prepared for negativity with your star ratings. Now is the time to craft standard responses for negative comments and ratings so that the practice can provide positive comments and avoid being reactive.
This is also a great time to ensure that your practice has gathered email addresses from patients to assist in digital communications about practice updates throughout the pandemic.
6. Consider your office space and options
If your practice continues operating with non-patient-facing staff working from home, it is time to evaluate your physical space. Whether you have too much space or were already paying more per square foot of commercial real estate than you should, review of any leases and their termination clauses so that you can consider other options.
Similarly, you should understand your options for subleasing unused space or renegotiating for new terms.
Finally, thinking about a second wave of COVID-19 can be really stressful, but you can empower yourself by focusing on what’s within your control right now. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to prepare your practice for a potential second wave.
At Patient7, we provide solutions for your clinical management needs. We support your efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and strive to improve how you do business with your patients and make sure your practice is ready for the second wave.