The purpose of this guide is to help you navigate your medical practice through a period of rapid, unexpected change.
Efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have changed the way medical practices care for patients and operate. At present, a core challenge is to realign patient care and experience with revenue opportunities, leading staff through a period of rapid adaptation.
A fundamental question that medical practice owners must ask and answer in the current environment is: Do I keep the doors of my practice open for operation, look for other ways to generate personal income, or pause and plan?
If the decision is made to maintain business continuity, remote and/or telehealth consultations should be considered as part of your business offering – to protect the wellbeing of your staff and patients. For the practice owner who decides to pause operations, now may be time to reflect on how your business will look when restrictions lift.
Considerations for rapid business transformation
It’s important to make choices regarding which services to provide, and how to offer them.
Areas for consideration include:
What I do
- What services will I offer?
- How will I provide those services?
- Who will I seek advice from?
How I do it
- How do I best support and train my team?
- What support, tools or technology do I need?
Who I do it for
- What should the patient experience be?
- How will I communicate new ways of working and treating to my patients?
How I benefit
- How will I get reimbursed for my services?
- How will I ensure I manage my own wellbeing?
Trust your advisers
Along with medical colleges and professional networks, ask your business advisers for guidance. These may include accountants, financial planners, finance providers, property, legal, human resourcing specialists and business partners. In times of rapid change, it’s important to increase communication with advisers, to ensure you’re drawing on many information points when making decisions that will impact your operations. Recognising where to invest or rationalise is important, and should be made in consultation with those closest to your business.
Additionally, seek input from experts in technology, as this may be key in delivering care in a new environment. Information technology resellers suggest tools and processes to support telehealth, including networks, cybersecurity, storage and devices. They may also advise on government incentives to upgrade the digital capabilities of your practice.
Consider remote enabled services
Align services to government stimulus packages and, where appropriate, implement ‘telehealth-first’ delivery with new work styles, operations and technologies – if you choose this as a means of care delivery.
Dr Harry Nespolon, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President hails telehealth as “a key weapon in the fight against this pandemic”1, coupling patient safety and continuity of care to practitioner safety, as well as revenue streams. It may be appropriate to offer a blended approach to care; where remote consultations are followed by physical ones to establish or adjust the care plan.
You may need to upgrade your broadband capability, office IT networks and end-user devices (e.g. media tablets and headsets) to facilitate remote consultations.
Consider alternative revenue sources
While this pandemic has impacted some business activities and medical procedures more than others, opportunities for telehealth and remote consultations and alignment with allied health and care services have emerged in areas such as mental health counselling, chronic disease management, the public system, and consulting.
Lead your people in new ways to deliver care
Your optimism will fuel your business’ forward momentum, while also providing reassurance to those around you. It’s important to involve your team in decisions on how to move forward together.
Focus on actions to steady the business and stabilise your financial position, while welcoming a dialogue on the best ways to provide training in digital service delivery and shifting processes online. Involving staff throughout the process of innovation is a great way to ensure maximum adoption of new ways of working.
Stay close to your patients
Reassurance can be provided to patients overwhelmed by new processes, through careful explanation. It’s important to understand that not all patients will be on the same learning curve. For example, older patients may be unfamiliar with the technologies required to facilitate remote services. Consider how all of your patients might navigate new ways of receiving and interpreting care, before implementing solutions.
Initiatives to limit exposure to infection could also hold additional benefits to patient experience, especially in the management of chronic conditions. Patients may welcome the opportunity to engage more fully in their own treatment and progress.
Invest in the patient experience now
When implementing change, take time to consider the patient’s overall experience of care; how they will receive it, and the role they’ll play in their own care. Consider elements of your offer that may address challenges that patients may have with the way that they receive care, as changes that you implement now may lead to more effective patient experience in the longer term.
Current funding models may remove many access issues for many patients, but there may be other opportunities to invest in patient experience, as well as business efficiency, keeping in mind the value equation for all.
Consider the future
Many of the challenges that practices are experiencing now can be seen as opportunities that may ultimately improve outcomes for patients and staff over the long term. Ensure that your team are involved in decisions, with the mindset that these changes could be permanent and should become ingrained in their future ways of working.
Care for yourself
The proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself’ is applicable in an uncertain world. While serving your patients and defending your business, ensure you care for your own mental health and wellbeing. Lean on your professional support groups and personal social circles, and maintain your own health with activities such as exercise, diet and practiced mindfulness. Take time to relax, reflect and re-centre. Seek help before you need it.
How can we help?
The Macquarie Healthcare team is here to help you throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with support for business customers.
To learn more, contact your Macquarie Relationship Manager, call 1800 442 370, or visit our Coronavirus Support Hub
We have also published a short article on access to support; please visit www.macquarie.com.au/site/coronavirus-resources/supporting-your-business/your-medical-business-and-covid-19.html