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Healthcare Post COVID-19: Communication is key

Healthcare Post COVID-19: Communication is key

05/07/2020  |  Emma Cubellis

COVID-19 continues to change the face of healthcare. So, what can you do to ensure that your practice is ready for our "new normal?" With business in a state of pause, now is the perfect time to begin prepping. Reopening for elective and routine procedures is a multi-step process. It is imperative that your practice understand that there will be novel challenges arising before, during, and after.  Communication will be a key factor in overcoming these challenges.

Right now, all practices can benefit from proactive communication with their referring physicians and hospitals in order to assess the potential influx of patients post-COVID. For example, it is likely that various modalities may see an exponential increase in screening appointments. Couple this with the nearly 90% of non-emergent appointments which have been either canceled or postponed, and it is possible that your office may need to change your hours of operation, modify your schedule to accommodate social distancing, and/or increase your workforce in order to meet the demand.  You can assess whether you will need to enact all or some of these changes by communicating with patients in the interim.

Communication with patients is twofold. not only will you be able to preemptively calculate the number of appointments your practice will be receiving, but you will also be able to gauge apprehension levels.  It is likely that patients will have a level of fear entering into a healthcare setting following the peak of this pandemic. It is necessary that both now and upon reopening you take the necessary measures to assuage these fears.  Right now, you can communicate to patients the steps you are taking at this very moment to assure their safety.  For example, have you been doing routine cleaning? are you prepared with the necessary PPE, both for your doctors and for your patients? Have you been screening your employees for symptoms of COVID19 through measures such as daily temperature checks? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should be communicating that to your patients right now, whether it be via phone call, email, or post.

There will also be precautions you will have to take upon resuming elective and non-emergent appointments. It is likely in the first two phases of opening, as outlined by the US Government, that your practice will have to limit the number of patients in the waiting room and office at any given time.  It is in the best interest of your doctors and patients to set up a system in which you may call patients in from their car when they are ready to be seen. It will be imperative  in these times that your practice run as efficiently and timely as possible. Healthcare practitioners should also show visible signs that they are concerned, and looking out for the safety of their patients.  After all, seeing is believing. You may want to hang posters in  your office detailing cleaning procedures. You may also want to show these sanitation measures by  cleaning screening equipment in the presence of patients, even if it has been previously sanitized. All doctors and nurses should make it a point to wash and/or sanitize their hands while in contact with their patient. These simple steps can go a long way in assuring your clients that their safety is, and always has been, your top priority.

Preparedness goes beyond patients, though In order for your office to run as smoothly as possible, it will be in your best interest to communicate and coordinate your plan of opening with your partners. Some questions to consider may include: Will your partners be on the same trajectory as you? Will they have adequate supplies and staffing to reopen? If not, is there something your practice can do to shoulder some of their needs in order to expedite reopening? The quicker practices are able to optimally function, the quicker finances will begin to recoup.  However, this will not be a one step process, and there will be many moving parts for all parties to consider, When we work together we all benefit.  There has never been a greater need to take care of one another.