The coronavirus had an imbalanced approach to healthcare facilities. While hospitals and larger health systems were overrun with an influx of patients and emergencies, smaller practices were deemed “non-essential.” Elective surgeries and routine primary care were asked to pause, in efforts to support the overburden treatment of COVID-19 patients.
As the curve starts to flatten, businesses are beginning to reopen around the country. This includes smaller medical centers, such as ambulatory surgery, that have been closed for many weeks due to the pandemic. But a re-opening isn’t as simple as unlocking the doors and turning on the lights. Businesses of all industries should put together smart, strategic operational plans for when they “reopen,” in whatever form that ends up being.
While this document should outline a practices’ clinical, operational, and financial actions for re-opening, the secret to success is including the re-opening elements that your team hasn’t thought of, read about, or considered. In other words: What are you missing from your re-opening plan? Below are some of the non-obvious elements for a thorough and comprehensive re-opening plan.
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- Make Sure Your Sanitation Procedures are Visible. Public perception is critical. In the past, patients trusted that their providers were doing what they needed to do to maintain a sanitary environment-that world has changed. Many of your patients have spent the last month consuming articles on how the coronavirus transmits, how long it lives on every surface known to man, and the relative efficacy of a N95 respirator vs surgical mask. Accordingly, to ensure your patients are calm-and, more importantly, show up to their appointments-be transparent about your sanitation protocols. Make sure that they are visible the moment your patient walks in the door. (Even better, before they walk in the door).
- Scrubs are Better than Suits. Your patients want to hear your practices’ news from you, not your administrators. Make sure your physicians have an outlet and a voice to get the message out. Use short form videos and your practices’ blogs to share updates. Be transparent about your practice updates, office hours, and updated billing processes. Let your patients know that you’re here for them and ready for them to return.
- Be Flexible. Absent the areas that have been hit hardest by the virus, roughly two thirds of US states have allowed medical practices to open their doors for non-medical procedures with the remainder set to open their doors within the next several weeks. However, it is the virus itself that will determine whether or not these re-openings are permanent. Accordingly, do what you can to get patients in the door and, at the same time, be prepared to reschedule those same patients in the event of a sudden closure.
- More than Ever, All Healthcare is Local. Many state epidemiologists and public health physicians have indicated that if there is a resurgence of the virus, the subsequent shutdowns will be localized to a particular region. As such, for practices with a large geographic footprint, while your practice remains open, your patients may not be able to access your facility. Again, be prepared, be flexible and communicate.
- Iron out Your Supply Chain. Know your vendors. Know your inventory. Stay in constant contact with your local hospital. While it’s presumptive that your geography won’t re-open if/until hospitals are ready, the virus has proven it can spread with staggering speed. Accordingly, ensure that your local hospital has the capacity for transfer in the event of post-surgical complications. And that is not a one-and-done exercise. It may be something you want to do daily.
- Think Long Term. There is no way to assess the long-term economic effect of this global health crisis. However, it is relatively certain that tighter capital markets will be one of them. That means if you already own a surgery center, as volume increases, it’s going to be more economically efficient to add capacity in an existing ASC than to build a new one. Now is the time to start planning for that inevitability.
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These additional considerations can make or break your re-opening plan. Use these last few days of quarantine to put together the business basics of what your facility will need for a strong re-opening. Then, walk away for a bit and come back to think about what else you might be missing. Here’s to your great success in this next chapter!