How doctors can overcome pandemic pressures through virtual practice building

Virtual practice building can save a facility battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, government-mandated shutdowns and anxiety over virus variants have disrupted how medical practices operate day-to-day. For example, in a March 2021 PatientPop survey, 55% of patients reported missing or canceling their healthcare appointments due to the pandemic. While federal agencies and state governments have a better grasp of the pandemic than in 2020, the nation is still navigating healthcare delivery amid new and ever-changing conditions. So naturally, doctors must adapt to accommodate this “new normal.”

While the pandemic may influence how patients follow through with care plans, doctors are exploring different strategies to treat patients outside their physical offices. Patients are gravitating toward providers who embrace flexible online care and interactions. McKinsey, for example, found that 40-60% of consumers would consider “digital front door” solutions and other broad virtual health offerings.

Despite the pandemic’s challenges, physicians can use the Internet to their advantage in satisfying patients and growing their practices. Here are ways doctors can leverage virtual practice-building tools to manage their businesses and help their patients.

Optimize Your Patient Access

Building a successful practice online requires adopting a data-driven mindset. Harvard Business Review found that organizations in the top third of their industries using data-driven decision-making were 5% more productive and 6% more profitable on average than their competitors.

Physicians can use the data they collect from website analytics programs, patient review platforms, and patient intake software to determine opportunities and adjustments that best position them for practice growth. For example, a dedicated practice growth dashboard can help practices track the appointment scheduling process—visits booked via phone, online, text message—to identify which strategies are working and which should change. Doctors and practice owners can also use a dashboard to gather actionable insights for improving reviews, website traffic, and SEO performance.

Doctors can also implement access to online healthcare and registration, giving patients the convenience to book appointments and access clinical information digitally. Not only can this satisfy your current patient base, but making these capabilities available can be an excellent strategy for attracting new patients. As Pew Trusts found, patients today prefer digital access to see their healthcare records, track their healthcare progress, verify information accuracy, and review treatment recommendations. Patients can also use digital access to seamlessly and securely check-in online, upload insurance and intake documents, share medical information, and confirm other appointment-related matters.

Leverage Patient Insights and Accommodate Your Patients’ Needs

Do not forget about your offline patient experience as you make improvements online. Knowing your patients offers a trove of insights for fueling your growth initiatives. As you treat your patients, pay attention to common trends and questions that pop up during your appointments.

Are most patients presenting common problems? What questions are they asking most often? Are they struggling to find providers for issues related to their symptoms? These insights can inform how you update your website pages, emphasize services offerings, and craft patient feedback surveys.

The pandemic has also encouraged patients, in large numbers, to take part in telehealth when appropriate. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced nearly 28 million telehealth visits occurred during the pandemic. Offering telehealth as a treatment option can help your practice accommodate high-risk individuals, conduct visits to determine whether an in-person appointment is needed, and manage ongoing treatment, especially for chronic care patients.

Although updated CMS guidance has made telehealth more viable for doctors and more accessible for patients, be sure to review applicable policies before deciding how to incorporate telehealth treatments into your patient care plans.

Of course, you will need to market your services the right way to maximize your telehealth and complementary treatment options. Using reputable email marketing programs can segment patient emails and deliver targeted messaging that resonates with patients and their care goals.