Hospitals and healthcare systems have had a rough few months — to put it mildly. Battling COVID-19 while trying to balance routine patients, extra paperwork, lack of supplies, and uncertain treatment plans have taken a toll. Now, with infection rates just beginning to slow and a few states starting to experiment with reopening their economies, the healthcare industry is starting to look forward to the future — a future where the worst of the pandemic has passed and the time has come to get back on track.
Of course, healthcare bounce back post-COVID-19 is easier said than done. Models run by Strata Decision Technology show that while January and February were relatively normal fiscal months for the nation’s hospitals, March and April saw a meaningful impact from the novel coronavirus.
Depending on the hospitals’ specialties, volumes either spiked with an influx of COVID-19 cases or fell dramatically due to the ban on elective surgeries. In both cases, annual margin projections took a big hit. How much of those losses can be recovered will be a mark of an organization’s recovery, but success will not come cheaply — it will require a great deal of energy and effort.
1. Do Not Lose Momentum
Hospitals and other health organizations have accomplished amazing things during this crisis. Patients were discharged quickly; testing facilities and pop-up treatment centers appeared in the space of hours. Staff and medical personnel worked brutal hours to keep the healthcare industry running as their peers fell ill around them.
There is still a long way to go, but the tide is starting to ebb. The healthcare community is going to be tempted to wipe their collective brow, be grateful the worst has passed, and try to get back to normal. If we want to see real healthcare bounce back post COVID-19, however, the healthcare community is going to have to keep the intense energy and apply it to rebuilding.
2. Establish Ownership
Accountability is everything when your goal is to work efficiently and leanly. The first step you should take in your organization is to decide where the buck stops: Who has the final say? Who can remove indecision and hold everyone accountable?
Usually, this is a CEO, a President, or the owner of the practice. Underneath them, you should establish an Operations owner — someone who understands the tactics you want to employ and can communicate them to employees and leadership alike.
Having these people set up as the owners of your mission creates accountability to facilitate the momentum you need to achieve your goals.
3. Set Goals
Saying, “We want to get back to normal” or “We want to bounce back” is easy, but those goals are too broad and difficult to achieve. Instead, set extremely specific goals based on a realistic assessment of where your business is.
Decide, for example, you want a fifteen percent increase in revenue next quarter. Maybe you would like to take on twenty new patients or set up one-hundred telehealth appointments this month. Whatever your goal may be, set it and base all your strategy around it — sprint towards your goal and don’t lose focus.
Build your content marketing and social strategies around your goals so you do not waste valuable time and resources. Once you achieve that goal (or come as close as possible), set your next goal, and build on the existing foundation. This kind of slow and steady progress can feel myopic, but it is the only way to rebuild after this kind of disaster. You have to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
4. Brand Your Recovery Program
Name your recovery program, decide on your message, and brand it. This may feel a little “rah-rah” for some people, but there’s a practical reason behind it. A branded program has a very clear visual message and a mission statement people can rally behind. Your healthcare teams, clinic staff, patients, and fellow doctors will know what the program is all about with one look.
Market internally and externally. You want to make sure your employees and partners are on board and everyone is pulling in the same direction — otherwise you just spin in circles. On the patient-focused end of things, make sure you project a completely put-together, cohesive front.
Being transparent about your struggles is okay. If half your staff fell ill or had to take leave to care for family or kids no longer in school, tell your patients that. Just make sure you frame it inside your “rebuilding brand” and end with an action statement.
The formula should be: Apology/Thank You + The Why + How You’re Fixing It = Your Message.
For example: “Thank you for your patience during this time. Some of our staff have taken leave for health or family care during the pandemic. We are working hard to provide you with the level of healthcare you expect from ABC Hospital. Wait times should decrease within the week.”
When you give people a “why,” they are considerably more willing to work with you. Stating the issue plainly, instead of in response to a complaint, cuts a lot of negative sentiments off at the knees by preventing unpleasant surprises for patients.
5. Pivot and Adapt
The healthcare system was not created to undergo such drastic changes in such a short amount of time — ever. Rebuilding can feel like an enormous task, but try to approach it as an opportunity to innovate. Try out the crazy idea you had and never implemented it. You are going to find a lot of space for creative solutions, especially in urban areas where outbreaks will take longer to recede.
Take advantage of technology wherever possible. It’s just a prediction, but we think telehealth is here to stay. People like being able to see a doctor on their schedule and from the comfort of their own homes. Use this to your advantage — sit down and really think about how many appointments you could do this way.
Could all initial appointments be by teleconference, with follow-ups as needed? Could you do pre-op consultations through an app or with a prerecorded video? Start thinking about the endless possibilities now, so you will be prepared to meet growing demands in the future.
Most importantly, listen to your patients. Engage in social listening. Find out where their online medical information comes from and what they share on social media. Actively evaluate complaints to find ways to improve. As in any industry, failing to adapt will send you the way of the dinosaurs.
If you have questions about how to strategize and brand your healthcare bounce back post COVID-19, contact iProv today! Start planning now so you don’t fall behind later. Call (501)214-7985, or fill out our form online and we’ll get back to you.