Resuming care in the post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on patient volume and revenue for most medical practices. Last year, many practices experienced significant decreases in their patient volume and revenue largely due to cancelled elective procedures and ancillary services.
While many practices have bounced back, thanks in part to the easing of state and local restrictions and implementation of safety protocols, in some practices patient volume is not yet back to pre-pandemic levels. Around the country, some patients are still not returning to their doctors’ offices. Is that true of your patients? And if so, why? Here are a few reasons, and what doctors can do to address them.
- Not understanding the risks of delaying routine care. Over the past year, patients have had to weigh the risks of going to medical facilities for preventive care and potentially exposing themselves to infection. More than a third of adults skipped or delayed care due to the pandemic.
The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) reviewed millions of health claims from 18 states comparing preventive medical services including mammograms, PAP smears, childhood immunizations, colonoscopies, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests in 2019 versus 2020. “Overall, we found that the pandemic is having a significant dampening effect on the use of certain health care services.
Preventive care declined during the pandemic. Reach out to patients who cancelled appointments to discuss the risks of delaying care and encourage them to reschedule.
Have a staff member export a list of patients who haven’t been into your office for over a year, and craft an outreach strategy. Let them know that your job is to assess their health, help them manage chronic health conditions, diagnose any issues early, and help them avoid bigger problems and more advanced medical care down the road. For more on a related topic, see our recent post Are Your Female Patients Aware of Their Increased Risk?
- The cost of medical care. While some patients may still be avoiding care due to fear of contagion, millions of Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic, and perhaps their health insurance, or have experienced a significant decline in income. For these patients, cost is the main reason for delaying the health care they need.
“We are seeing the financial pressure hit,” said Bijoy Telivala, M.D., a cancer specialist in Florida, to the New York Times. He added that some people are choosing between putting food on the table and medical care.
People who lost their jobs or income during the pandemic may be avoiding medical care due to the cost.
What can doctors do to help? Besides explaining the risks of delaying care, as explained above, you can help patients understand how their health insurance works, if they have it. Do they have a deductible? What about an HSA or FSA? Explaining the cost of care can go a long way toward avoiding a “head in the sand” reaction. Perhaps you can offer a payment plan or give them drug samples or discounts on medications.
For more on this topic, read our post Helping Patients Understand the Cost of Their Care.
- Confusion or concern about how your practice is handling appointments. Don’t underestimate patients’ safety concerns, and don’t assume patients who haven’t been seen in awhile know about your COVID-19 protocols or new offerings, like telehealth.
Be proactive about communicating new safety measures and appointment options like telehealth to show patients what your practice is offering at this time.
Be proactive about sharing what COVID-19 safety measures you’re taking, such as redesigning or eliminating your waiting room to accommodate social distancing, additional cleaning and disinfecting measures, and the use of PPE. It’s also a good idea to show images of your staff wearing masks on your website and social media pages. Be sure to monitor your online reviews now more than ever so you can respond to patients’ feedback and questions if necessary.
If you’re offering telehealth appointments, share information related to that, as well. Patients may be wondering if they are eligible or if their insurance covers these appointments. Some practices are finding that using Rendia tools to educate patients during telehealth appointments is boosting their revenue and conversions.
Because information related to COVID-19, mask mandates, vaccines, and reopening is changing daily, proactively and frequently communicating to your patients is the way to go right now. Be sure you’re providing the information they need to feel confident and safe about scheduling routine and elective care again.
Find out how one practice increased conversions—during the pandemic—using Rendia and telehealth. Download our case study.