Healthcare professionals are not alone in changing the way they do business this year in response to COVID-19. As healthcare providers, however, we have specific requirements, rules and regulations governing our industry that make implementing new technologies, tools and workflows more complex.
If your team is working in ways that you could not have dreamed of only a few months ago, you are not alone. As we respond to changing requirements and patient needs, sharing best practices and lessons learned can help the industry improve patient care and technology implementation in the future. For example, when implementing remote staffing or telehealth services, one of the biggest challenges can be creating new standard operating procedures. Adding new administrative tasks and workflows can feel like a burden, especially when serving patients and protecting the safety of your team takes precedence.
But, the innovative ways your teams are practicing medicine today, providing continuous care throughout a pandemic, will change the industry forever. From administrative cost savings to new telehealth services, the ripple effect will last for decades and you are at the leading edge of improving the way doctors and patients communicate.
At Vital Interaction, we’re excited to play a role in helping providers find innovative ways to reduce administrative burdens and improve patient care. Here are a few lessons learned this year:
Centralizing important functions into small teams
One result of moving to remote work is learning that organizing workforces into small teams with clear processes (i.e. scheduling, referrals) can improve response times and reduce inefficiencies. For offices with a distributed administrative model (staff in each office), identifying tasks that can be handed off and completed by one team across all offices can also help reduce administrative costs. And for teams that have already implemented centralized scheduling or administration workflows, small ‘strike teams’ can further improve efficiencies.
In response to COVID-19 this year, we saw that for providers with centralized administrative staff who were given clear roles and responsibilities, the move to work from home was simpler and easier. These teams implemented streamlined workflows, automation of tasks, and new technologies more quickly and efficiently. Ultimately, producing economies of scale and improving standardization helped reduce administrative costs and allowed providers to focus on patient care.
Removing patients from the waiting room
Waiting rooms have notoriously been places where patients share germs and feel bored and frustrated. One result of COVID-19 was a hard look industry-wide at how to improve waiting rooms with a bit of innovation. One simple solution is giving patients a way to check-in remotely and wait safely in their vehicle until the provider is ready.
We can imagine the next step will be GPS-enabled remote check-in tools allowing patients to wait at home or the office and be alerted when they should travel to the provider’s office, where an open waiting room is waiting for them. Adding administrative functionality to allow patients to complete paperwork digitally before they get to the office is another solution that improves patient communication.
Rethinking pre-appointment and post-appointment workflows
Americans have missed important healthcare visits during the pandemic. Providers who have automated key workflows to prepare for their return, including in patient communications and scheduling, will attract non-emergency patients back in the office quicker and with less administrative overhead needed.
Automated workflows also help improve efficiencies in collecting patient information before visits and collecting payment details afterwards. Using digital waiting room and patient sign-in technology combined with text messaging, patients get appointment reminders and follow-ups automatically. Vital Interaction’s messaging tools help automate and improve patient communications, including cancelling and rescheduling appointments in bulk, checking in on patients at home, and more.
Adding virtual patient consultations
Virtual consultations were already happening before the pandemic and they are happening in greater frequency now. As we say, there’s no turning back now. In fact, the FCC announced
$200 million in new funding to help providers implement telemedicine. Advanced telemedicine solutions will allow patients and providers to switch between in-person and virtual appointments, empowering patients to select what works best. For follow-up patient care, or for patients who live far from the office, enhanced virtual services will allow for more frequent patient interactions in the future.
Think about new ways your team can connect medical equipment, patient monitoring devices and team members across locations, rather than purchasing more than one item or employing more than one person. A future where costs and services are based on need rather than purchased per location will reduce overhead and improve efficiencies.
Reimagining online sales and product delivery
Some providers, including those in ophthalmology, have added product sales as a patient service to help increase margins and add new revenue streams. Consider how consumer-centric tools like Amazon and Favor can be used to connect more patients with health products from home (i.e. glasses and contacts, health and wellness items, and more).
Automating tasks to reduce administrative costs
The full economic toll of the pandemic on the healthcare industry isn’t yet known. Reducing administrative costs is one way to help minimize the effects on your own practice. From adding automation to remove burdensome administrative tasks and streamlining workflows to improve efficiencies, to reducing overhead costs with the implementation of remote work, small changes can help improve margins quickly.
We recommend automating processes for no less than one-third of what it costs for a person to do the work. We are already seeing this happen across the industry in response to current financial conditions and we strongly encourage you to start now.
We are proud to work with you and the healthcare industry as a whole to help providers continue to serve patients during these challenging times. We don’t get to pick our challenges, but we do get to choose how we tackle them.
We are here to help.