Your patients may be delaying non-essential care and possibly even postponing care that is essential to their health and well-being, out of COVID-19 fears and anxiety. In the meantime, you have a practice to run. You need to know how to continue to care for these patients and how to keep them at your practice during the pandemic.
Just as most businesses have had to shift their models to stay afloat this year, changing your operations as an independent practice might also be necessary. Some tips for keeping patients at your practice during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Expand your normal operating hours. While it may sound counterintuitive, offering additional office hours could help reassure those patients who are concerned about waiting for appointments in close proximity to other people. To have fewer people in your waiting room at one time, stay open longer and spread out the appointments to ensure proper distancing.
- Reduce patient wait times. Along the same lines, take steps to ensure that patients are not in the waiting room with other patients for long periods of time. 2019 MGMA statistics show that waiting room times for primary care has increased to 14 minutes. Another 10 minutes is typically spent in the exam room waiting for the provider. Electronic check-ins or having patients wait in their cars can help ease your patient flow challenges.
- Manage appointments to reduce the wait time between calling for the appointment and seeing the provider. You can calm your patients’ anxiety about being seen at your practice if they know they can come in within a short period of time after calling to schedule the appointment. Everything seems a little slower these days, as capacity limits and even curfews have been put in place. Patients who don’t have to wait to get an appointment will be more likely to stay with your practice through the pandemic.
- Take advantage of technology, especially the patient portal. You can “see” patients virtually and respond to their specific needs without having them come in for an office visit. Patients can use their portal to request prescription refills, ask you specific healthcare questions in a secure environment, and review their own lab results.
Get COVID-19 support for your independent practice. Elation Health’s COVID-19 guides will help you navigate today’s unique challenges, so you can continue to focus on your patients.
One of the best ways to keep patients at your practice through the pandemic is to optimize the use of telehealth. You can continue to provide the highest quality care for your patients while keeping them and your staff safe. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and most third-party insurance providers have authorized reimbursement for telehealth services and, in fact, see it as a trend for future healthcare options.
Your independent practice can optimize telehealth services to:
- Screen patients who may have symptoms of COVID-19 and refer as appropriate.
- Provide urgent care for non-COVID-19 conditions, identify higher acuity care needs, and refer patients as appropriate.
- Access specialty providers, including mental and behavioral health care providers, for chronic health conditions and medication management.
- Participate in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other modalities as a hybrid approach to in-person care for optimal health.
- Monitor clinical signs of certain medical conditions remotely (like blood pressure and blood glucose levels).
- Engage in case management for patients who have difficulty accessing care, including those who live in rural settings, older adults, or those with limited mobility.
- Follow-up with patients after they are discharged from the hospital.
- Deliver advance care planning and counseling to patients and caregivers to document preferences if a life-threatening event or medical crisis occurs.
- Provide non-emergent care to residents in long-term care facilities.