A look into the future healthcare practice
COVID-19 has changed our world. Almost every business and industry is learning to adapt to the changes that this virus has ushered in, and none so more than the healthcare industry, which has been pushed into previously unfamiliar territory. As the number of new cases in Australia start to level out, we can now begin to unpack some of the lasting impacts that the outbreak will have on healthcare practices.
Considerations for maintaining an efficient and thriving healthcare practice post-COVID19
Supporting new models of care
COVID-19 has demonstrated that different models of care have a place in how we manage patients. Not every patient needs to be seen in person, in a practice.
Telehealth was a standout example while we were in lockdown. In addition to enabling remote consultations, it has enabled more frequent, but often shorter follow-up consultations for patients with their primary physicians. Telehealth is also giving healthcare practitioners the ability to hold coordinated conferences with patients’ supporting healthcare professionals — such as their GP, physiotherapist and occupational therapist — all in the same session.
We know that other models can be just as successful, including in-home care and online purchasing of consumables.
We believe the practices that will thrive in the future are those that can best match the needs of their patients to the right model of care. Perhaps some patients are best serviced by a telehealth phone call, while another could be added to an in-home round — others certainly need to be seen at a practice. This will require changes to how patients’ needs are assessed before their appointment and how your business workflows, people and technologies are geared up to support delivering different service models at the same.
Implementing cloud-based technology
Software providers who build modern practice management systems have seen significant growth over the past few months, specifically those who are cloud based, as providers use this opportunity to upgrade their systems and workflows. The latest software packages add support for the new models of care outlined above, such as integrated video telehealth capability and, most critically, the ability to view patient files remotely. It’s no longer acceptable, for example, to have digital patient files that cannot be easily accessed and updated from another location. And how do practices take payment over the phone?
There has never been a better time for practices to rethink the tools and systems that they use to run their operations, ranging from a cloud-based practice management system to a digital payment solution like Medipass that enables both claims and payments to be processed in any scenario, including in person or during a telehealth consultation.
Changes to workforce and workplace
New models of care, supported by cloud-based software, are opening up very different ways that a practice can be resourced, delivering benefits to practitioners as well as patients. Practitioners have quickly realised that remote consultations give them greater flexibility in where they work from, including the ability to work from home, while still allowing them to provide quality patient experiences.
Giving greater flexibility to practitioners will help to create a more diversified workplace, delivering opportunities for employment where it wasn’t previously feasible; for example, supporting new parents in being able to work on terms that suit their new schedule.
Of course, with new ways of working come new ways of managing staff. While different communication processes will work for different businesses, it’s important to find one that works for your practice, and that you stick to it.
Rethinking your patient catchment area
While COVID-19 has changed how health care is delivered, it will also change who a practice can care for. While most people will continue to see practitioners that are close to them, practitioners that offer something unique, that can be delivered remotely, will be able to offer those services to patients living further away. This has incredible benefits in being able to better match the needs of patients to their practitioners, and doing so in a way that creates better patient/practitioner relationships and patient outcomes.
For example, a psychologist that specialises in anxiety related to a fear of flying now has a national base of potential patients, who need not travel in order to be treated.
Lessons learned from the rapid transition and where to now
COVID-19 has taught us that we have the underlying technology available today to build a better health system, one that delivers better outcomes for patients and practitioners alike, while also enabling us to drive system efficiencies that benefit the whole community.
As with all great and lasting change, those that realise this and adapt first are most likely to succeed in the long term. And in an industry where geography now matters less, there’s far more of the market to win or lose.
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