Employing one in eight adults nationwide, the healthcare industry is vital to the economy and communities across the country. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hit hard, with many Americans avoiding routine and elective care.
From veterinarians to dentists to primary care physicians, experts say that practitioners of all stripes have had to contend with unprecedented business challenges.
“Practice owners have always needed more than medical skills to be successful, but now they’re in need of even more support to get back on track,” says David Marrin, head of Wells Fargo Healthcare Industries Group, which specializes in supporting small to mid-sized healthcare practices.
As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be administered and social distancing mandates lessen, it’s anticipated that the industry will bounce back. In the meantime, Marrin says practitioners should use this time as a learning experience and re-position their practice for future success:
1. Reach out to patients: Many people skipped their annual check-ups last year because they were unsure if it was safe to visit their doctor’s office in-person. With a backlog of patients, there’s an opportunity to update those clients on new safety protocols. Make sure returning patients know in advance the safety measures being taken, such as temperature checks, mandatory masks, physical barriers or limited occupancy. Practices offering telehealth or home delivery of products and medications should highlight such offerings as proactive ways they’re safely serving client needs now and in the future.
2. Offer flexible payment options: COVID-19 has been devastating to many and some clients may be facing financial challenges. Practitioners should consider offering flexible payment options. Extended payment plans, loyalty programs, and financing options are a few ways to help clients get needed care while easing their burden.
3. Re-evaluate cash flow: Likewise, some practice owners are struggling and are reporting less patient volume and declines in revenues. With overhead and other costs increasing, they should identify the most and least profitable services they provide while ensuring their rates are competitive. Integrating stronger profitability strategies can help with longstanding growth and sustainability.
4. Leverage digital channels: For many businesses, digital channels have become a primary source of communication and service for their customers.
To encourage patients to return to the physical office, highlighting safety protocols through email or social media can ease their concerns and help set expectations. Update online channels with current information and photos to represent what an in-person visit might look like. For example, show doctors in masks. Or, highlight what a telehealth appointment looks like.
Those patients wishing to receive virtual care can also benefit from online portals, downloadable forms and other digital communication tools that create a two-way dialog allowing them to share questions and concerns about care, treatment, appointments and prescription refills.
5. Seek the right relationships and resources: One of the most important things physicians can do is pinpoint the right group of trusted advisors for practice management tips, financial guidance, and direction on the right products and resources for their unique needs. Owner of Veterinary Dental Services, Dr. Bonnie Shope says one of the most important lessons for her business was surrounding herself with mentors who have different perspectives and experiences.
This expert team should also consist of a business banker with specific experience in the healthcare industry, as well as a healthcare consultant team to advise on practice management and other business challenges.
Additionally, there are many tips and tools available for healthcare practitioners taking proactive steps towards recovery. Check out the free articles and videos available on the Wells Fargo Healthcare Practices microsite.
As the economy continues to recover and many people return to their pre-pandemic routines, healthcare practices should lean into creative business strategies to help them survive and thrive in the months and years ahead. (StatePoint)