Do This to Prepare for the New Health Care Normal
By David Doolittle

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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented physicians with formidable challenges – challenges that will continue for the foreseeable future.

In the weeks to come, you still will have to maintain social distancing, continue efforts to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintain healthy staff.

While recognizing that COVID-19 has disrupted essentially all aspects of life, keep operations and finances in mind as you shift into a new “normal.”

Health care is going to look different, and you need to respond to the new way of business accurately. To help you and your practice prepare for the future, consider the following suggestions:

Patient and staff safety

Safety should be a top priority, so continue to mitigate risks, and let staff and patients know what steps you are taking for them.

Make sure to have up-to-date and accurate signage displayed in waiting rooms and break rooms for staff.

Continue to ask patients triage questions and check their temperature as they arrive. In the waiting room, keep chairs spaced far apart and disinfected after each patient. Educate staff and patients on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing guidelines.

The TMA COVID-19 Task Force has created a quick reference sheet with more tips on keeping your practice safe. Also, check out this "Frequently Asked Questions" and podcast that answer many of the questions you might have about caring for people who have been exposed to the virus.

Staffing

Staffing is one of the biggest operating expenses for most medical practices.

As in-person patient visits have decreased, and telehealth use has increased, it might be time to reevaluate staffing levels for the long term.

How much are you utilizing your medical assistant now? Do you need as many receptionists to check in patients? Can workflows be revised where fewer staff are needed? Feel free to survey your staff and see where their workload has changed.

If you would like more help understanding how to utilize telemedicine, listen to TMA’s webinar, Telemedicine During COVID-19, and take a real close look at TMA’s Practice Viability Toolkit, which includes sections on telemedicine and human resources.

Other expenses

Examine your other monthly expenses and see how they have evolved over the past few months. Dive into any variances and note the reason why. Review PPE expenses, cost of medical and office supplies, staff salaries and overtime.

What services are nonessential? Make note of those and forego them indefinitely.

Try to get a loan or line of credit to ease the financial burden. Consider working with smaller banks even if you do not have a relationship. Smaller institutions may be able to help push the application process more quickly than the big-box banks that are overwhelmed with requests.

Check your business bank account: emergency funds from the federal government were deposited into physician accounts tied to their tax ID. Keep an eye on grants and apply for anything applicable.

You can find more information and resources to help keep your practice financially healthy on the TMA Practice Viability webpage and in the Practice Viability Toolkit.

Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

Last Updated On

April 24, 2020

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David Doolittle

Editor

(512) 370-1385

Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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