It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and even grieved at the prospect of recovering your practice from this economic downturn. Patient volumes and revenues are way down across the board for small to mid-sized practices. Improving the financial aspects of your business and even just getting everything moving again in terms of workflow and office logistics has been nothing short of overwhelming for most practice owners.
The Medscape Family Medicine Physician Compensation Report 2020 found that practices reported a 55% decrease in revenue and a 60% decrease in patient volume, on average. While the strategies for balancing patient care and patient risk may vary and telehealth visits are up, many practices are unlikely to return to average volumes for some time.
Practices will all respond differently to reopening, often depending on the local response to the Pandemic and the resources available to remain flexible. Many will find themselves trying to recover their patient volume and their finances gradually. These general tips may be useful for your practice during this trying time.
Your practice will likely need to recover in more ways than one, and that’s where the incredible burden of the unknown starts to feel heavy. Your first step is to define the scope of what you need to do and translate those projects and needs into obtainable goals. One size will never fit all here, but in general, think about recovery in these layers:
Recovering Operationally: What do you need to move forward as a practice operationally? What does your team need to do their jobs? What supplies and procedures do you need to work through to keep things moving to the next phase?
Recovering Financially: What does economic recovery look like for your practice? What are your monthly debts, and can you cover it with your working capital? How can you adjust your budget in the short-term to pull ahead in the long-run? How can you identify growth opportunities to increase revenue over time?
Recovering Practice Resilience: You and your staff are all people first, and you may find that getting back to your old office flow feels more like a toil given the circumstances. Getting everyone on board with your stabilization strategy with small goals can help clear a path to success. Your business will recover, and soon the ‘new normal’ will feel like an old routine. Keep moving!
Strategize your workflow
Before you can increase your patient volume, you need to fine-tune your workflow to accommodate all of the COVID-19 procedures your practice has established. Just getting these mechanisms running can take some time, so give yourself and your staff a chance to smooth out the kinks, if you can afford it.
Then, ask each member of your staff to explore how this ‘new normal’ might impact them specifically. Changes to the economy surrounding the COVID crisis may also require updates to how each of your staff approaches their role within your office. For example, your front-desk team may need more time for intake, given the insurance changes that accompany so many job losses and changes. This adjustment will be worth it over the long view since having the incorrect insurance in your patient’s chart will cost more time and revenue once it hits the billing stage of your revenue cycle.
Optimize your messaging strategy
Patient engagement is key to increasing revenue, and you’ll need a good plan for keeping your patients abreast of changes. You’ll likely need to develop a new message to explain your visit options and procedures. A Patient Portal can help you to keep in touch with patients. You’ll also need to update your social media accounts, office signage, website, and phone message to communicate your visit options. The most crucial factor is to keep your message consistent, so try to update them all at the same time.
When you find that you’re ready to tackle increasing your patient volume again, start by taking a look at your Reports to identify patients with canceled appointments and patients that are awaiting preventive, routine care. Even patients due for preventive care may need help deciding whether to postpone or proceed with routine physicals or other preventive services. First, contact patients who have canceled since COVID-19. If they know your office procedures and precautions are updated, they may be more likely to reschedule. You can create more demand with a detailed safety plan.
Also, many insurance companies are waiving co-pays temporarily to incentivize telehealth visits. This may allow you to encourage your patients to schedule an appointment while this option is still available. If you identify an insurance company that is offering this incentive, you can look for other patients who may be able to take advantage of the opportunity with the Insurance By Carrier report.
Of course, quality patient communication is vital to the health of staff and patients alike. Contact high-risk patients and let them know about the availability of telehealth and office visit procedures to plan for care if they have a crisis as soon as you can.
Stay up-to-date on billing or hire a billing service
As if this health crisis is not enough, you’ll need to carve out some time to learn new billing codes and rules on top of it. If you find that you are using telehealth codes or telephone visits more frequently, check your Explanation of Benefits forms for any denials you may have gotten early on. Some insurers have updated their codes and modifiers post-COVID, and you may need to rebill.
If this seems like much work, it is because it is! It’s a whole job on top of your own. Now is the perfect time to consider investing in a billing service like MacPractice Business Services to take care of your billing. Practices can increase revenue and reduce write-offs within the first three months.