If I were to describe the first half of 2020, a few words that come to mind are unexpected, uncertain, unfamiliar, and unimaginable. No matter how much we talk about what has happened, it is not going to change anything. The truth is we have no other choice but to adapt.
The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association National Assembly, where my company has been exhibiting for the past ten years, is going virtual for 2020. We have been visiting O&P facilities in person to meet and assess our clients for years, and that business model has now morphed into Zoom meetings. Some of our clients’ patient clinics have turned into telehealth clinics.
This is an opportunity to look at ways to improve our processes.
The current O&P practitioner’s business model of spending more than an hour in traffic to get to a clinic where he or she will see maybe six patients and generate maybe two or three new referrals, dare I say it, may have needed a redesign anyway.
This is our opportunity. Let us assess the changes in our office protocols and the way patient care has adapted since the pandemic hit. What is working? What has improved, or what could be improved with a little tweaking?
Can you save space in your office and improve your employees’ work-life balance by allowing your billing staff to remain working from home, or move to four ten-hour day workweeks?
Can you change your weekly in-person clinic to a virtual clinic three times per month with a once per month in-person clinic?
How about implementing a policy that the customary two-week follow-up visit after delivery is done via telehealth?
These appointments are usually unbillable events to check in to ensure that patients are doing well. Will making this change free up time?
What other things can we think of differently to improve delivery of our services? Could you create regular monthly or bimonthly ten-minute telehealth check-in visits with certain patients? Perhaps these visits could be with a practitioner assistant in between the usual six-month or annual face-to-face follow-ups. Would this change improve your service or improve patient retention?
Maybe this is the opportunity to improve the back end of your website to allow patients to pay their bills there, to create an educational room for your patients where they can learn more about their devices from their practitioners, or to develop a group chat room or even a support group with similar patient populations. Turn these improvements into marketing opportunities to share what separates your practice from others.
The reason we have not made these changes before or looked at modifying or improving our business models is because we did not have a need to. Take advantage of this pandemic to create a new standard of operations.
- Allow your staff to suggest changes and provide input. What were some positive elements that came out of this? What did they recognize, what worked, what did not work?
- Look at preparations you can make. What changes can you make to prepare in case this hits again or there is some other surprise event?
- Meet with your referral sources. What have they noticed? What can your practice do to help their patients?
This pandemic has changed not only the way we do things, but also how we will describe them. We may describe the way we used to do things as “before corona.” History books, get ready….
Erin Cammarata is president and owner of CBS Medical Billing and Consulting. She can be contacted at [email protected].