Across the U.S. and all around the world, health organizations are trying to understand and address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on their patient volumes and financials. This spring, the number of patients accessing hospitals and healthcare dropped significantly – with one data analysis1 reporting that the number of unique patients who sought hospital care is down by an average of 54.5% across all service lines.
According to a year-over-year analysis of more than 2 million patient visits and procedures from 51 health delivery systems in 40 states, estimated volume losses for 30 service lines in March and April 2020 were as high as 80%. Specialties that experienced a greater than 70% reduction in volume in spring 2020 compared to the same two-week period a year prior included ophthalmology, spine, gynecology, and orthopedics as well as ear, nose, and throat. According to the same study, numerous others—fifteen, to be exact—experienced declines in excess of 50%.
Since spring, office visits and elective surgeries have rebounded somewhat across all specialties, but reports indicate the overall number of outpatient visits remained about 30% less than baseline levels around the U.S.
Perhaps never before has a comprehensive patient engagement platform been so valuable to health organizations being hit with successive and endless waves of challenges. At the most basic level, health systems need to proactively reach out to patients whose routine care was interrupted due to the outbreak or who had surgeries canceled or postponed.
But how? Here are some idea starters for leveraging a patient engagement platform to recoup revenue:
- Use survey tools and interactive response to gather insights to better understand why patients may or may not come in for an appointment — whether that's because they're concerned about contracting COVID-19, ;have financial limitations such as lapsed coverage or unemployment, or transportation issues. These insights can help you communicate better with patients and also predict demand as normal service resumes.
- Segment outreach by patient type and customize communications by content, channels, cadence, and context. Use non-patient-specific information such as appointment type, location, and cost independently or in conjunction with patient-specific information to make communication and outreach messages more relevant to the individual patient.
- Conduct post-discharge campaigns to avoid readmissions and related penalties while increasing attendance at follow-up appointments. Use digital and human outreach to connect with patients, or their caregivers, within 24 to 48 hours of discharge to gauge compliance and identify patients who need additional attention. Help protect emergency department activity for truly acute situations and ensure their post-surgical questions are answered well ahead of any acute situations.
- Use tailored patient communications and reminders to lessen the likelihood of missed appointments. For every appointment no-show, health systems lose hundreds of dollars in staffing costs, visit reimbursement, and missed revenue opportunities. According to some studies, missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year and individual physicians an average of $200 per unused time slot.2
- Drive demand for health and wellness check-ups with health risk assessment tools and consumer-friendly scheduling options. Providers must help to ensure patients schedule and attend necessary appointments, which can close gaps in care and improve compliance and care plan adherence. Identifying the highest need patients and prioritizing their care needs will also positively impact health outcomes and reimbursement.
- Ensure your digital presence is optimized. As patients return to the health system, many will be searching online to determine provider availability and to schedule appointments. At the same time, they'll be reading reviews and comments from others. Help ensure your online footprint is both current and optimized for digital health consumers.
Patients will return but how quickly that happens will depend on how comprehensive your patient engagement platform is. For more tips on recouping revenue lost to COVID-19 shutdowns, check out this blog.