3 Trends to Monitor for Robust COVID-19 Recovery

July 15, 2020

Operational steps are important, but practices who pay attention to broader strategies with patients, insurance, and payment models could see a stronger bounce back.

If you and your practice are like the majority of the radiology industry, the bulk of your attention as you pursue a COVID-19 recovery, has been devoted to operational tactics. But, according to one industry expert, if you want to maximize your bounce back, setting the stage for an even more solid future, there are other factors you should consider.

Without a doubt, you should continue to ensure your facility has enough personal protective equipment, provide for testing when it is needed, and follow all the disinfection and physical distancing guidelines. But, Joshua Liao, M.D., M.Sc., an internal medicine physician at the University of Washington Medical Center, suggesting three additional strategies that an further augment your recovery. He published his thoughts in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“Ultimately, these are minimum requirements for operating in the post-COVID-19 world that do not inherently improve a group’s competitive position or the quality of care it provides to patients,” Liao said. “Seizing this opportunity to focus on a true COVID-19 recovery strategy means understanding how the healthcare landscape will change going forward.”

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He outlined three trends providers must monitor in order to be fully successful going forward:

Pay attention to patient decision-making: Within days of the alarm about the virus, a significant portion of healthcare ground to a halt. Patients readily passed up elective and critical health services in an effort to avoid exposure, fearful that stepping foot in a hospital or doctor’s office placed them at increased risk. Even with safety measures in place and with more practices re-opening, radiologists must be sensitive to these continued worries. It is not enough for you to point to the safety measure you have in place, you must make your patients feel safe, as well.

To reach this goal, Liao suggested investing in new activities and programs to prompt patients to return for care, such as nudge interventions to improve image-based cancer screening.

Monitor insurance coverage: Not everyone who had insurance prior to the pandemic still has it. Unemployment has pushed many patients into the Healthcare Marketplace or onto Medicaid where their coverage is less extensive. That means you could see a change in your payer mix, possible impacting your projected volumes and financial forecasting. If you find yourself in this position, search for and adopt new strategies that can fulfill patient needs within new benefits plans.

Examine payment models: In an acute way, the pandemic has highlighted exactly how dependent healthcare is on the number of patients treated, shining a bright light on the major pitfall of the fee-for-service model. To bolster yourself going forward, Liao suggested, look into whether a cost-focused model, such as capitation or population-based payment, would be a feasible option. Whatever the case, he advised, take the time now to determine what would work best for you.

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“Practices that use the COVID-19 recovery period to anticipate and strategize about potential changes to referral volumes will clearly be better prepared to thrive in different circumstances compared with groups that do not,” he said.

Overall, Liao said, concentrating on these trends can help you lay the groundwork for a much more robust recovery in the coming months and years.

“Ultimately, the process of COVID-19 recovery creates both operational challenges and strategic opportunities for radiology practices and other healthcare providers,” he said. “Although much of the attention thus far has been trained on the former, groups could also stand to benefit by focusing on the latter.”