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Checking the “Pulse” of Practices Amid COVID-19

Apr 22, 2020 11:26:02 AM

From cancelled appointments, to temporary closings, to staff furloughs, COVID-19 is having a major impact on medical practices of all sizes. For some, the disruption has been minimal. For others, it is much more significant, prompting important decisions that will determine whether the practice stays afloat.

Regardless of the situation facing your practice, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Tens of thousands of practices across the country are facing the same challenges that you are – which can provide a sense of comradery and inspiration as you look for creative solutions for making it through this COVID-19 storm. That’s why Clearwave conducted the “Pulse Check” Survey, to give practices an opportunity to find common ground during these difficult times. Below, we reveal the survey results and discuss the takeaways you can apply to your practice to help you survive the pandemic and thrive in the months that follow.

Question 1: What do you believe will be the long-term effect on your business post COVID-19?

  • A spike in volume to catch up - 50%
  • Decrease in volume - 14%
  • Will resume normal activities - 20%
  • Uncertain - 16%

What this means to you

It’s safe to say that just about every practice is concerned about the future business impact of COVID-19, but the focus of those concerns vary. 50% of respondents are worried about a spike in volume post-pandemic – and that means preparing now for an influx of patients later. Start by reaching out to your patients, not the other way around. This way, you can identify and prioritize candidates for options such as telehealth visits and other types of services they can leverage now, lightening patient load later. Clearwave’s patient self check-in solution can also help on this front by expediting the check-in process through kiosks and tablets so no single front-end staff member is overwhelmed by the sudden surge.

Question 2: Are you planning to adopt any new strategies?

  • Telehealth - 49%
  • Mobile patient registration - 23%
  • Virtual waiting rooms - 8%
  • Other - 20%

What this means to you

With COVID-19 restricting many practices from seeing patients in person or performing elective procedures, there’s been a massive uptick in the use of telehealth technology. It’s now reached the mainstream with 49% of our respondents saying they plan to incorporate this new strategy in some capacity. Initially, telehealth was looked at as a temporary solution. But now practices are realizing this service may be beneficial to a larger audience in the future (especially if patient volume does indeed spike). Along with telehealth, mobile patient registration and virtual waiting rooms are also seeing broader adoption. Clearwave empowers practices to adopt these services by offering pre-appointment communications and electronic check-in tools to assist office staff, service more patients and create a more personalized patient experience even in a virtual world.

Question 3: Are your physical locations still open?

  • All locations are still open - 43%
  • Some locations are still open - 40%
  • All locations are closed - 10%
  • We've moved only to virtual telehealth appointments - 8%

What this means to you

The good news is that 43% of the practices who responded are currently able to keep all locations open. However, for the ones who have had to close some – or all – of their offices temporarily, it’s important to find ways to keep patients engaged while reinventing the processes necessary to operate in a COVID-19 world. Among the most critical and simple strategies is communication. Keep patients informed via text message or email. Remind them about the benefits of that laser eye surgery they’ve been putting off or another procedure they’ve had to postpone. This way, they won’t forget with everything else on their mind, and are more likely to reschedule once it is safe to do so.

Question 4: How long do you anticipate the impact to your business will last?

  • 60 more days - 38%
  • More than 90 days - 33%
  • 90 more days - 25%
  • 30 more days - 5%

What this means to you

The reality is no one knows how long it will take to contain COVID-19 or how long the impact will be felt. For practices anticipating this outbreak will continue for months to come, they need to identify ways to operate within the unknown, which begins by staying flexible and in control of what you can. One way we’ve seen practices do this is by temporarily converting their facility into a walk-in clinic for patients with emergency injuries. By offering “right now” vs. “appointment only” services, you can maintain cash flow while also opening up your doors to patients who otherwise would not be able to receive care right now. This also frees up the doctors and nurses working in hospitals and urgent care clinics that are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and running low on protective equipment. Reinventing your practice this way can help you navigate the unknown, and if successful, it may even be a beneficial option long-term.

Question 5: Have you had to reduce your workforce, which of these measures have you taken?

  • Furlough employees - 45%
  • Lay off employees - 15%
  • Close doors temporarily -5%
  • Other - 35%

What this means to you

Workforces are taking quite a hit during COVID-19, including in the medical community. While hospitals and urgent care facilities are seeing a surge in patients, places like orthopedic offices and ophthalmologist offices are restricted as to whom they can see. As a result, almost half of our respondents (45%) have had to furlough employees. Others have had to do layoffs or cut salaries, while some practices have had to shut down entirely.

For those operating with a smaller staff, Clearwave can help increase efficiency and reduce the workload for stretched front-office personnel. Our patient self check-in kiosks and tablets can help lighten the administrative load pre-appointment processing, both during and after the pandemic. And for practices looking to strengthen their COVID-19 safeguards, the Clearwave coronavirus screening module is available to screen possibly-infected patients, without putting any staff members at risk.

Planning for the New Normal

Everyone has been impacted by COVID-19, either on a personal or professional level, and our Pulse Check survey revealed the impact on medical practices specifically. But again, no practice is on their own in this. By recognizing the experiences of other practices and understanding how they’re adapting, you can bolster your plans for the future and set yourself up for success in this new normal. Clearwave is committed to helping you navigate these challenges – for more information on how to plan ahead for a post COVID-19 world, we encourage you to check out our COVID-19 Resources Hub.

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