7 Steps to Handle a Down Economy
One ramification of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a down economy that has affected many sectors of our society — including healthcare practices. Healthcare professionals have felt the effects as patients have lost jobs and health insurance, have been reluctant to visit doctors’ offices because of fear of infection and have shifted to saving instead of spending. This article suggests seven steps that can help you not only survive any downturn, but thrive in the long term.
7 steps to handle a down economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has had many ramifications. One of these has been a down economy that has affected many sectors of our society — including healthcare practices or facilities. Doctors have felt the effects as patients have lost jobs and health insurance, have been reluctant to visit healthcare facilities because of fear of infection and have shifted to saving instead of spending. You may need some specific strategies to weather the storm.
Take active measures
Healthcare practices should take the following steps to help them handle the downturn:
- Have a marketing mentality. Just as consumers scale back spending in a down economy, many businesses, including those in the healthcare industry, may consider scaling back their marketing expenses. But in general, it’s the wrong time to scale back marketing. The best approach is to fine-tune your marketing strategy, focusing on providing positive messaging to existing patients while reaching out to new ones. Remind your patients that you’re here for them and that taking care of their health and wellness is an essential need — not an indulgence or something to postpone.
- Decide not to lose a patient to a competitor. Ensure patients have access to you and your practice, that you’re providing top-notch care in a safe environment and that you’ve made it as easy as possible for them to make an appointment in a timely fashion.
- Set your practice apart. Target your marketing to inform potential and current patients about the overall experience you’re providing. In a consumer society, people look for the best deals and convenience, but they’re also attuned to how their experiences make them feel. Pay attention to the element of patient experience and ensure you’re offering the best care possible. Get to know what your patients value most about their health care.
- Be value-added. There are numerous ways to interpret the term “value-added,” including going the extra mile for patients. But another concrete way of adding value is to reinvent your practice to be as comprehensive as possible. In other words, it may not be enough to simply focus on a patient’s chief complaint. Within the context of appropriate care, conduct a full exam to look for problems or issues that might be “subclinical,” in the sense that the patient may not be aware of them. In addition to increasing patient visit value for your practice, this is beneficial to the patients as well.
- Emphasize patient satisfaction. This, of course, encompasses providing the highest level of care possible and finding out what your patients value. So much of it comes down to customer service. People might want faster and cheaper, but when they come to a physician’s office, they want to get better faster. They want to be seen on time. They want you to listen to them and provide the services they need while demonstrating an understanding of their problems.
- Focus on patient customer service. Communication between doctor and patient is an important physician competency. Patient satisfaction is linked to good physician-patient communication. The most obvious aspect of this is bedside manner, but you need to be attuned to all your practice’s communications — and ensure they reinforce how you want your practice to be perceived by the patient.
- Make sure your accounts receivable are under control. Although this should seem obvious — whether in a boom or a bust economy — make sure you’re getting paid what you’re owed. Accounts receivable (AR) involves the outstanding monies owed to your practice or facility and is also a measure of how long claims are overdue. Claims over 90 days should be less than 20% of your total AR. Days in AR is the average number of days it takes to collect the payments due to the practice. A high-performing practice’s billing is typically 30 days or less in AR. The average is 40 to 50 days, and 60 days is below average.
Heal your practice
Hopefully, the pandemic will fade and the economy will begin to recover. It’s also possible that, as patients get used to the new protocols dictated by the pandemic, this will lead to permanent changes in the way you deliver care. In the meantime, taking steps toward a lean, efficient practice that is focused on a superlative patient experience can help you come out on top regardless of circumstances.