Is Your Surgical Practice Prepared for a Second Wave

Is Your Surgical Practice Prepared for a Second Wave

We’re all getting used to the idea that Corona is here to stay. So as schools reopen around the country and winter creeps in, it’s clear we could be looking at a second surge that could bring our new normal life screeching to a halt again.

If that happens, elective surgery could be reduced or even suspended again. While a lockdown isn’t on the cards — for now — numbers in the U.S. and worldwide are climbing, which means this is the time to ensure that your practice is prepared to deal with a second wave. 

Here are four things to consider to ensure your practice is in the best position to maintain business continuity for round two. 

Tracking Canceled Surgeries

Checkmark tracking patients during COVID-19

Many practices are still dealing with the fallout from the first shutdown. Some canceled surgeries have yet to be rescheduled or performed in addition to an influx of new cases diagnosed while elective surgery was still at a standstill.

If that’s true for your practice, it’s time to look at your current system and ask some important questions. Namely, do you have effective processes in place for tracking and rescheduling cancellations? 

Many practices learned a crucial lesson during the first shutdown: since surgery is the practice’s main source of revenue, a manual tracking system is not adequate to manage the process.

Coordination around surgeries must be managed on a platform that can automate the tracking process. In addition, every canceled surgery is potential revenue for the practice, making it critical to follow up and track canceled or postponed procedures. 

Dedicated surgical coordination platforms like Surgimate were designed to easily manage and reschedule surgical cancellations. Surgimate automates the tracking process and released a COVID-19 rescheduling feature that automates the prioritization and ranking process for canceled surgeries and enables staff to reschedule cases more efficiently.


Telemedicine during COVID-19

During the early days of the pandemic, the number of patients turning to telemedicine visits increased 300-fold, according to the Epic Health Research Network. According to EHR data, the telemedicine volume peaked in mid-April with 69% of all visits conducted virtually.

While that number has tapered off as states opened up and people contend with the next normal, if the second wave hits and stay-at-home orders are re-issued, virtual visits will no doubt increase again. 

Whether your practice used telemedicine successfully during the peak of the pandemic or not, this is the time to take stock of your telemedicine strategy. Ask your practice:

  • Are you happy with the platform you have been utilizing?
  • Were patients aware of the system and were they comfortable using it?
  • Have your surgeons been trained adequately and are they satisfied with the platform?
  • If not, what fixes or enhancements can be made right now so your practice can confidently ramp up telemedicine again? 

Make Sure Your Staff Can (Continue To) Work From Home 

Work from home during COVID-19

After overcoming most of the difficulties of working from home during the first wave, there’s no doubt that having to do so again won’t bring the same shock to the system. Maybe your billing or other admin staff have been working from home since March, so you’re all set. 

If your team has mostly been back in-office following the easing of restrictions, think about what you learned from working at home the first time around. Ask your staff

  • Did everything go smoothly, or can you improve the process to make remote work more efficient?
  • If you encounter roadblocks, what can you do to ensure that things work better during “Shutdown: the Sequel?”
  • Do your staff have the necessary equipment to do their jobs (laptops, phones, etc)?
  • Is your phone system set up so it works remotely and extensions get re-routed?
  • Do the applications you use have web-based connections and are they all HIPAA-compliant outside the office firewall?
  • Is there a solid method of communication between teams?
  • Are there regular department meetings so items don’t slip between the cracks?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, now is the time to review your systems and workflows and make any necessary changes. You should also consider designating a team member as “head of remote work” to ensure all of these details are ironed out in advance. 

Effective Patient Communication

Informing patients during COVID-19

The first shutdown showed just how important it is to keep patients up-to-date with changes in services and scheduling. Having surgery postponed can be scary and stressful, not to mention frustrating and even life-altering for patients. Make sure you do everything possible to give patients as much information as possible. 

If you have a marketing team, make sure they are ready with the appropriate messaging to send to patients through various channels about operational changes and what they mean for patients’ surgeries and in-office appointments. It’s critical that patients are guided through all the differences with as much notice as possible and expectations are managed. 

Surviving The Second Cave (And Whatever Else Comes Your Way)

Masking up during COVID-19

At the end of the day, the big question is whether your practice will have a revenue stream to sustain itself through another wave of COVID-19. Many practices struggled to stay afloat in the first wave of COVID-19, so hopefully, plenty of lessons have been learned. 

After realizing some patients would rather go to a clinic than a hospital during the initial shutdown, some practices began offering walk-in clinics as a dependable revenue source. This isn’t an option for all practices, but it’s a good example of thinking creatively and embracing our constantly changeable reality. 

While everyone is fed up with the word “pivot,” it’s true that those who are open and flexible to new ideas will be better able to cope with the next surge (and possibly more after that).

COVID-19 will be with us for a long time to come. To ensure your practice is ready for what’s coming, keep pivoting, keep evolving, and, above all, keep positive. This too will end, and those practices that embraced new tech and new methods of working will be in a stronger position than ever before.

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