Legendary business leader Jack Welch once said, “Change before you have to.” These words ring especially true in 2020, a year that’s already proven to be like no other, less than halfway through. Its events to-date have impacted every single community, business and individual on our planet, forcing each to reflect on priorities and alter their day-to-day norm.
For the healthcare community, the impact has been especially severe. Frontline hospitals and trauma centers have been overrun with COVID-19 patients and have commanded all available attention and resources, while practices in specialties like ophthalmology, dermatology and orthopedics have been mandated to shut down for anything other than emergencies. The effects have ranged from debilitating to devastating, as some facilities have been forced to cut services and staff to stay afloat, while others have had to close their practices permanently.
For those practices and facilities that will survive the first round of this pandemic, there are critical decisions to make – with little time to contemplate them. By most accounts, a second wave of COVID-19 could likely hit later this year, and until a vaccine or treatment is approved and made widely available, more waves will follow. This gives healthcare practices a small window to prepare themselves, their staffs and their patients to avoid or minimize disruption down the line. It gives practices the opportunity to learn from the past several months and make the changes necessary to weather future outbreaks or any other unexpected challenges. It gives them the chance to innovate.
In any business, innovation is the key to long-term viability and success, but this is especially true in healthcare. From forms of treatment to diagnostic systems to front-office procedures, practices need to be constantly innovating to stay ahead of the competition and provide the best possible patient experience. Unfortunately, too many practices still rely on old-school manual processes and legacy systems to run their operations. In fact, practices fill out more than 20,000 forms every year, and each form costs approximately $20 in labor to process. Even more costly is the impact manual processes have on patient care – 86% of mistakes made in healthcare are due to administrative error.
Compounding the problem: these statistics reflect a pre-pandemic world. The emergence and chaos of COVID-19 has likely made things significantly worse, since practices that still rely on manual administrative methods lack the agility to adapt to any conditions that are out of the ordinary. Old-school methods may have been sufficient when the day-to-day was more predictable, but coming out of the initial wave of a pandemic, predictability is off the table.
Embracing and adopting technology – and applying it in new and creative ways – will empower these practices to survive and thrive regardless of what lies ahead. Systems like electronic self check-in immediately elevate the quality of patient engagement and transform operations in a way that no manual process can. The three most obvious areas of impact include patient experience, efficiency and flexibility, and communication. In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll dive into each of these areas and the opportunity for transformation that comes when a practice invests in technology and automation.