I don’t know about you, but I feel like the last year has been somewhat of a blur. There have been a constant flow of regulatory changes impacting healthcare providers (safety protocols, office closures), a myriad of financial support and acronyms to learn (PPP, ERTC, HHS), new employment laws (FMLA), and changes in how we do business and deliver service. This has put many practices and practice administrators in a reactive position, dealing with daily crisis management issues as opposed to being proactive in developing strategies on life after COVID, growing the practice, and maximizing organizational resources. Now that we are emerging from the pandemic, you need to redirect your focus to be more strategic in the administration of your practice. This includes understanding the direction that healthcare is moving in so you can get ahead of the trends to maximize your practice’s benefit over the balance of 2021 and beyond.
Delays in Preventive Care: When the COVID pandemic hit, most people shied away from healthcare providers for fear of contracting COVID. As a result, regular physicals, stress tests, cancer screenings, etc. experienced declines of between 85% and 95% from normal levels. Foregoing screening and other preventive care will have a long-term impact on healthcare, as early detection and intervention decreases. Similarly, elective procedures and outpatient services were also down, although not as dramatically. While there is still trepidation about going to doctors, it’s not as acute as it was a year ago. Now is the time to start getting your patients back into the office for all of those preventative and elective procedures they pushed off. Take the time to go through your patient list and determine the last time they received preventative care/testing and get them back in now, because the long-term impact of avoidance can come at too high a cost.
Telehealth is Here to Stay: The COVID pandemic created an urgent need for telehealth across all disciplines. During 2020, the number of patients using telehealth increased from 11% to 46%, with growth likely to continue to grow. This equates to some $250 billion or about 20% of all healthcare spending. Over the next few years, it is anticipated that we will see expanded policies and more formalized reimbursement rates are established. This will mean, however, that you will need to provide for greater integration with existing technology platforms and strategies that consider cybersecurity and privacy concerns. In addition, a deeper push into telehealth could mean providing services outside of your normal catchment area, which means more potential opportunity for you, especially in areas of specialization or sub-specialties.
Technology Will Continue to Move Healthcare Forward: During the COVID outbreak, data and advanced analytics were essential to treatment and ultimately the recovery of many patients. Real-time information was essential and will continue to play a vital role in the care of your patients. COVID created the need for increased innovation in advanced analytics and predictive modeling to enable more effective and timely treatment of COVID patients. This trend will continue into other areas of healthcare and will incorporate more wearable technology that will enable you and your patients access to more real-time information to help drive better healthcare decisions and outputs.
“Coopetition” and Collaboration: You need to look for places where your services could have a significant impact on community health and partner intentionally. For instance, organizations like Walmart and CVS now offer some level of basic primary care, simple diagnostic services, screenings, etc. About 50% of women over the age of 40 do not receive mammogram screenings. If CVS were to motivate women to get these screenings, some of the women screened would require referrals for follow-up diagnostic exams and potentially treatment. Developing a relationship with CVS, sharing data, etc., could open the door to a new stream of referrals.
Patient Experience/Choice: With increased access to information, patients are more frequently taking healthcare decisions into their own hands. This means researching physicians, checking ratings, understanding communication and effectiveness, and visiting practice websites. As a result, it is becoming increasingly more important for you to market your practice through meaningful website content, testimonials, patient satisfaction surveys, patient-centric technology, and lower office wait times. The patient experience within your office is important. Patients say it’s imperative that clinicians take the time to listen, show they care, and communicate clearly.
The medical profession is rapidly changing, making it harder for you to both practice medicine and run your practice. You need to find ways to leverage those around you to be able to spend time working on your practice, which is not always easy. Set aside time each week to strategize with your team on how to keep ahead of the curve, and if you have any questions, as always, call us.
Jacob Lutz, CPA
Jacob joined Cerini & Associates in January of 2013 and has been actively providing tax, compliance, and business advisory services to a wide variety of both for-profit and non-profit clients.