The Lasting Lost Revenues Effect from COVID-19
When natural disasters happen, people rarely think beyond the devastation itself to the longer-lasting implications— such as the cost. Think about the 2021 fires in Australia, estimated to have cost upwards of $110 billion. It will take a generation to recoup revenue losses to businesses, property, healthcare, and other vital parts of the infrastructure. Now imagine a disaster of this magnitude continuing for three years. Welcome to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic was an inflection point for chaos across the healthcare landscape. At the start, providers were met with critical cases that required longer stays. This initially contributed to a bump in revenues, but over time, the costs outweighed the earnings — a result of shortages in a host of areas: labor, medicine, PPE resources, and cancelations of elective procedures, to name a few. Providers also saw skyrocketing numbers of missed appointments for tests and preventative care that can result in worsening — and more costly — conditions.
Missed Medical Appointments Mean Lost Revenue
The losses alone from missed cancer screenings have been staggering. One study, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), revealed a decline of 94 percent in breast and cervical cancer screenings and 86 percent in colon cancer during 2020. It is estimated this will result in more than 10,000 breast and cervical cancer diagnoses in the next ten years. A study by Komodo Health showed a decline of 65 percent in preventative screenings, including PAP smears, cholesterol, and hemoglobin tests. This is a threat, not only to the patient’s health but to the health provider’s bottom line.
From a financial perspective, preventative care visits have a reimbursement rate of $120 to $170 per patient visit. For health systems seeking to recoup revenue, patient outreach that encourages wellness visits not only provides a revenue stream but encourages patient loyalty and positive health outcomes.
Here are four best practices to help health systems recoup revenue and engage patients
Reengage Patients Who Delayed Care
Health technology has blossomed during the pandemic and made it easier to engage patients and recoup revenue, but patients are still falling off the radar. Providers should consider utilizing a patient outreach solution to reengage patients in your network that haven’t had an annual wellness visit in the past year or more.
Our Communication & Reminders solution can send text messages alerting patients to expect a reminder call within 24 hours to schedule an annual wellness visit. This proactive approach combines the use of text messaging and calls to encourage patients to schedule – and keep – healthcare appointments. For one healthcare system, this approach resulted in 746 patients (25 percent) scheduling and attending their appointments by the December 31 deadline. Even more, this campaign was designed, coordinated, trained, and live in just ten days.
Embrace the Value of Virtual Visits
Telemedicine is booming. A virtual visit is far more appealing when patients are required to practice social distancing or are unsure whether an in-person visit is necessary. With the rise of omicron, patients have become reticent to attend doctor’s appointments in person. The virtual option not only benefits patients who may need an assessment for minor infections, a new prescription, or a referral, but there are benefits to the providers as well. These include:
Reduced overhead expenses— less front desk support and fewer exam rooms
Additional revenue stream— allows clinicians to care for more patients
Fewer no-shows by improving flexibility— patient consultations can occur after hours
Less exposure to illness and infection
Patient satisfaction— patients enjoy the convenience and full attention of the caregiver
Stericycle Intelligent Scheduling built on the InQuicker™ platform provides both online and live voice scheduling options. This allows patients to schedule virtual visits in their channel of activation while also reducing the burden on your staff.
Close the Referral Loop
In a perfect world, patients would be referred to a specialist, the appointment would take place, and patients would receive the needed follow-up care. However, the reality is the closed-loop referral rate for many health systems is low, leading to lost revenue. Reasons include:
Healthcare staffing shortages– undoubtedly more so due to COVID-19
Referrals made out-of-network
Cancellations and no-shows
A recent study by Mahler Patel and Duke University supports this, which found that, of the nearly 104,000 referral scheduling attempts, only 35 percent resulted in completed appointments. Plus, nearly 20 percent were made to out-of-network providers. The study also noted that “innovation in technology provides an opportunity for health systems to significantly improve their referral process and close the referral loop.”
Stericycle’s Referral Management provides easy online scheduling for the patient at the time of the referral to reduce the time of the manual process. Additionally, our agents can conduct outbound calls to patients to schedule referral appointments. This reduces referral leakage and cost while allowing practitioners to utilize staff resources better.
Make Patient Engagement the Priority
It’s important for your health system to know how consumer preferences impact patient expectations. Our 2021 U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey revealed some compelling insights. Notable findings include:
55% of respondents said they would use online scheduling in the next 12 months if the experience were easier.
40% of respondents used a phone to schedule their appointment.
59% of respondents fully read text messages from primary healthcare providers.
64% of respondents prefer a virtual waiting room if given a choice today.
Insights like these are vital for your health system to create a patient experience that healthcare consumers expect.
Here are six strategies that can help you improve your patient engagement:
Create patient outreach campaigns— email, text, and call patients who are due for screenings, including mammograms, colonoscopies, lung cancer tests, and others.
Send personalized appointment reminders— a little guilt goes a long way. When patients receive a reminder text, email, or call, they are more likely to close the loop.
Send real-time scheduling links— make it easy to go online and confirm an appointment.
Use the phone— 30 percent of patients prefer a call as their communication of choice.
Tap into social media— Create social media campaigns that remind patients to schedule their annual screenings. You can also use this channel to sync up with events, such as National Cancer Awareness Month.
Educate your patients— Offer classes and events that encourage a healthier lifestyle to help reduce chronic disease risk.
Stericycle’s Advanced Solutions Can Help
Whether you seek to recoup lost revenues, improve patient engagement, or close the referral loop, here is a great place to start. For more patient engagement strategies to recoup revenue, download our free eBook: 5 Patient Engagement Strategies To Recoup Revenue