3 Phases Practice for Post-COVID-19 Comeback Success

Everyone loves a good comeback story. Let’s write yours.

This has been a chaotic and trying time for everyone. Many practices have been asked to shut down or reduce the number of patients being seen. But, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Healthcare practices are positioned to come out of this in much better condition than most businesses. Think about it, all those patients you weren’t able to see will be needing to get back in.

3 Phases Practice for Post-COVID-19 Comeback Success
3 Phases Practice for Post-COVID-19 Comeback Success

Much of your post-COVID-19 comeback success depends on what you do now. We want to help position you to not just survive this ordeal…but thrive on the other side.

The real question is, will you be ready so you aren’t overwhelmed when that time comes?

This article is broken down to three key section areas of focus:

  • What practices should be doing now during quarantine guidelines
  • What practices should do as they reopen and start seeing patients again
  • Making sure you have everything in place to thrive once normalcy returns

The time to act is now. Read on this article to help make sure your practice has the right comeback plan in place, start positioning your practice to thrive once we kick COVID-19’s trash!

Content Summary

Everyone loves a good comeback story. Let’s write yours.
The time to act is NOW!
Your comeback playbook is divided into three key sections
Phase 1: Urgent – Do This Now
1. Stay up to date with all of the latest information.
2. Look into financial resources.
3. Create groups and send on-going messages through text or email.
4. Let patients know how to reach your practice in case of an emergency.
5. Send newsletters bi-monthly.
6. Send pre-visit instructions.
7. Deactivate recall messages.
8. Implement telehealth.
9. Track canceled appointments.
10. Leverage mobile payments.
11. Leverage two-way text messaging.
12. Complete CE certifications and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in healthcare.
13. Invest wisely for the future.
Phase 2: Recovery – Ready for Reopen
1. Prepare your office.
2. Determine patient priority.
3. Let patients know you are reopening.
4. Get patients on the schedule.
5. Make sure your reminder cadence is set up.
6. Offer mobile payment options.
7. Set up a COVID-19 prescreening form.
8. Add pre-visit instructions.
Phase 3: Growth – Thrive Going Forward
1. Encourage two-way texting.
2. Set up a paperless check-in process.
3. Use online scheduling.
4. Strengthen your online reviews.

Everyone loves a good comeback story. Let’s write yours.

This has been an unprecedented time. It has been confusing, chaotic, and occasionally downright scary. And, as we all know, a huge swath of healthcare practices, along with businesses across every industry, has been asked to shut down or significantly reduce the number of patients being seen. But, in this dark tunnel, a strong ray of light shines. Healthcare practices are positioned to come out of this in much better condition than most businesses. Think about it—once this is over, all of those patients who failed to get a check-up during this time will be clamoring to get back on track. There is a good chance that you may be OVERWHELMED with work once you reopen.

The time to act is NOW!

Much of your post-COVID-19 comeback success depends on what you do now. There has been significant research into how successful businesses weather economic downturns. According to Harvard Business Review, businesses that prosper during difficulties like this approach the situation differently in three key ways.

  1. They act early: We’ve been hearing reports that some practice owners and staff are using this time for a well-deserved rest (and we KNOW you deserve that rest!). But this is completely counter to what needs to happen to come out of this thing on top. NOW is the time to act. There are so many things you can be doing to tackle this challenge now.
  2. They take a long-term perspective: It’s easy to freak out when things are crazy like this. And of course, there are short-term issues that need to be addressed. During this time, it is critical to sit back and take a look at your long-term plans. Companies that take a long-term view during a difficult time achieved four percentage points higher annual growth during the downturn.
  3. They focus on growth – not cost-cutting: The last piece seems a little scary. Studies show that businesses that succeed during difficult times are not those that hunker down and take on a “wait and see” attitude. It is the companies that take the scary step to invest and focus on driving new revenue that comes out on top.

This may seem a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry—you’re not alone! We are in this together. So let’s work together to position you to not just survive this ordeal…but thrive on the other side.

Your comeback playbook is divided into three key sections

The first phase covers everything you should be doing now, while quarantine or shelter-in-place guidelines are being followed. Reopening may feel far away, but what happens at this time is critical to success shortly.

The second phase walks you through what to do when you are ready to reopen and start seeing patients again. You are reaping the benefits of what you did during the first phase and honing in on any areas that need additional attention.

The final phase is for when things have settled in and you make sure you have everything in place to thrive going forward. This is where your comeback is complete.

Phase 1: Urgent – Do This Now

1. Stay up to date with all of the latest information.

You need to be the expert your patients can turn to with questions. This means that each day you should be reading up on the latest recommendations so you can share that information with patients. Here are some of the places you can go to find good information.

Government and official websites:

Industry-specific sources:

COVID-19 trackers:

  • Johns Hopkins University has an interactive dashboard that uses official data from the CDC, WHO, and other organizations.
  • A group of researchers and journalists created a U.S. state-level tracker that does a great job as well. It includes information that you might not find elsewhere, including the overall numbers of tests given and the negative/positive results for those tests as well as the number of hospitalizations in each area.

News sources:

  • Associated Press (AP) News: This is continually listed as one of the least politically biased news sources. It has also had excellent coverage of the pandemic, covering the story from multiple angles.
  • National Public Radio (NPR): Another good source for relatively unbiased news is the NPR.

Telehealth and teledentistry regulatory updates and billing resources:

2. Look into financial resources.

There are a lot of loan and grant programs available to practices at this time. Here are a few places you can find those:

  • Congress passed the CARES Act on March 27, which provides for small business loans, grants, paycheck assistance, and loan forgiveness. Applications can be found at the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance.
  • Small Business Association (SBA): A great resource to access the latest on everything SBA from local assistance to debt relief. Read their coverage here: Coronavirus COVID-19: Small Business Guidance Loan Resources
  • Many states are offering additional aid for small businesses that extend beyond the federal programs. Check your state website for details.

3. Create groups and send on-going messages through text or email.

Different patients will have different communication needs. You should send messages to these groups as issues come up.

Organize patients into different groups based on criteria they have in common. Send messages accordingly. Here are a few examples of groups you might want to create:

  • Entire patient base
  • Groups of patients with appointments scheduled on a certain day or within a specified period (for example all patients with appointments in a single week)
  • Patients who have special needs or high-risk for emergency care. Not only may these patients need to be seen during the closure, but you will want to communicate with them differently once the practice is open again.

4. Let patients know how to reach your practice in case of an emergency.

Patients need to know they can still receive treatment if it’s an emergency during this time of uncertainty. To accomplish this task, you should:

  • Send an email. Your email should include information on what is and what is not considered an emergency. If you have texting ability, be sure to let patients know they can text you during this time.
  • Post the same information on social media channels.
  • Add this information to your voicemail message as well.

5. Send newsletters bi-monthly.

Newsletters have never been more important. They are a good way to send in-depth information during a scary time for patients. Make sure that you send newsletters at an even higher frequency than usual.

Patients are clamoring for information and, as the situation evolves, you can share that info. The key is to be a voice of expertise and knowledge for your patients in this difficult time. This will not only help your patients, but solidify you as someone they can trust. You can send newsletters to different groups of patients as outlined in the step above as well. Remember to cancel any previously scheduled automated newsletters. You want to be sending information that is timely and applicable to our current situation.

6. Send pre-visit instructions.

Never before have we had a time where so much information needs to be sent to patients before they visit a practice. If you remain open, even partially, during this time, you must send patient-specific pre-visit instructions.

An example of pre-visit instructions may include something like, “If you are experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath, please contact our office before your appointment.” You can send these instructions in whatever way you send reminders. This may be via email, text message, or phone.

7. Deactivate recall messages.

If your practice is closed, you’ll want to prevent recall messages from being sent to patients until your practice has opened back up.

8. Implement telehealth.

Transition as many services as possible to telehealth during this time. To support you in this effort, regulations have been loosened. For example, the following constraints have either been lifted or relaxed:

  • Geographic location
  • New-patient telemedicine
  • HIPAA-compliant technology requirements

Efforts to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs are also in effect. The following commercial payers are all covering telemedicine:

  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield
  • Aetna
  • Humana
  • Cigna
  • United

Also, The American Dental Association (ADA) recently released COVID-19 Teledentistry Billing and Coding Interim Guidance to help dental offices incorporate these new regulations and processes into dental practices.

Given the very fluid nature revolving around regulations and billing requirements, we recommend you be extra diligent in the documentation. Create processes around recording patient verbal consent, time of services, etc.

9. Track canceled appointments.

All appointments that get canceled need to be carefully tracked so you can know which patients should be messaged in the future. Tracking this information will help you be better prepared to fill your schedule when your practice returns to normal operating hours and full functionality.

10. Leverage mobile payments.

Text a link to patients to pay amounts due on their mobile devices. You’ll be able to collect at the time of service for both in-person and virtual visits without anyone touching money, cards, or shared devices.

11. Leverage two-way text messaging.

Text messaging is one of the key tools for practices during this time. There are multiple ways to use two-way texting during this time, depending on if you are open or closed or somewhere in between.

  • You can quickly respond to patients even if you are at home.
  • Pre-set responses can be created to common questions that allow you to simply respond with the press of a button.
  • If your practice remains open, it allows office staff to handle multiple conversations at once while still focusing on in-office patients.
  • It allows patients to check in remotely from their vehicles and avoid the waiting room. The practice can text patients when it’s time for them to see their provider.

12. Complete CE certifications and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in healthcare.

We offer the SolutionTeach University completely free for Solutionreach customers. There are other certifications and educational tools you can access during this time as well.

Many CE providers, including CDA and local dental societies, are in the process of converting their previously scheduled in-person CE offerings into webinars or online content to enable licensees to meet their CE requirements for licensure renewal.

13. Invest wisely for the future.

Remember, businesses that invest now are the ones that are likely to thrive after this downturn. What tools do you need once you reopen to optimize efficiency and patient satisfaction? Make a list of the tools or technology you already have and the ones you might want to install or upgrade. Experts recommend tools such as:

  • Digital tools: There are a lot of digital options out there that can boost efficiency. Online scheduling, online intake processes, and online bill pay are just a few. If you’re not yet using these types of tools, this is a great time to play around with them. You can become trained and ready while you’re at home.
  • Mobile-friendly website: Is it time for your website to go through an upgrade? Now is the perfect time to make it as patient-friendly as possible. This means mobile-friendly and easy to find. You may want to dedicate a little effort into improving your SEO as well.
  • Strong social media presence: Your patients are stuck at home. A great way to interact with them is via social media. You can regularly post updated information and tips for staying healthy. You can engage them in games and get-to-know-you activities. The more you interact with them now, the more likely they are to reschedule once this has passed (and continue to boost your online presence long after this is over).
  • Cloud-based software: Never before have we understood the importance of cloud-based tools! Your practice management software and your patient relationship management software should all be accessible on the cloud.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots on your website can make your life a lot easier. They will chat with patients and answer common questions like the services you offer, financing options, how to pay a bill, and so on. Now is a great time to look into adding a chatbot to your site.
  • Videos: Always wanted to make your own “Happy Birthday” video? Or an educational series? Now is the perfect time to do so. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make a fun video.

Phase 2: Recovery – Ready for Reopen

1. Prepare your office.

The demand for treatment will be high when your practice reopens. You’ll want to make sure your office is clean, organized, and ready to rock ‘n roll when you reopen. Cleaning and disinfecting will continue throughout a typical day.

  • Prepare treatment rooms: Follow the counsel of CDC, WHO, state and local officials, and national associations. (ADA, AOA, AMA)
  • Prepare waiting room: Deep clean tables, chairs, door handles, magazines, clipboards, front office counter.
  • Check supplies: Make sure you have the necessary supplies for treatment, check expiration dates, place orders of needed materials.
  • Test equipment: Test all necessary equipment needed for treatment.

2. Determine patient priority.

You need to take some time to consider your patient population during this time. You may want to adjust the way you see patients based on these needs. Hopefully, you created a group to communicate with these priority patients during the previous phase. That will enable you to reach out easily.

  • Consider dedicating specific days to only treating patients at high risk for COVID-19 such as the elderly where you can take strong precautions to lower the risk. Communicate this information to your full patient base via email, text, and phone.
  • We recommend that you keep current appointments on the schedule and then work those overdue patients into the schedule based on who has been waiting the longest or has the most urgent needs.
  • Share priority information with patients. Let them know the order in which you will see patients. If you have a large flood of patients wanting to be seen, this will reduce some of the frustration.

3. Let patients know you are reopening.

Send a message via text and email to let patients know that you are reopening and what the date will be. Include information on how to schedule an appointment and your current priorities for scheduling. Share this same information on social media. You can include a link to your online scheduling platform if you have one.

4. Get patients on the schedule.

We recommend waiting until you are closer to a reopen date to reschedule patients. For now, cancel appointments one week at a time. Once it is time to reopen, we recommend keeping any current appointments as-is rather than rescheduling them.

In other words, if you had patients already on the schedule when it is time to reopen, go ahead and leave those. You can then work in the patients who missed appointments wherever possible. Please note: due to high demand, it is likely you may need to offer extended hours and weekends to provide care to overdue patients. Here are a few tips for getting your schedule ready:

  • It is a good idea to add an extra 5-10 minutes between appointments for additional sterilization during this time. If you decide to do a “high risk” day each week, you may want to factor in even more time.
  • Let patients know that you will be flexible with any cancellation policies. Patients may feel uneasy about visiting the office at this time. Be patient with them and they will be patient with you.
  • If you have online scheduling, make sure that it is still available for patients to access. You may want to even send a text message with a link to your online scheduling program to help patients reschedule missed appointments.

5. Make sure your reminder cadence is set up.

If you have automated reminders of any type that has been shut off, turn them back on. Data has shown that the most effective way to do this is with a 3-week, 3-day, and 3-hour cadence. Until you have caught up on some of the missed appointments, you may want to turn off the weekly reminder and just keep your daily and hourly reminders.

6. Offer mobile payment options.

Continue to offer text bill reminders and mobile payment options so patients can quickly pay and avoid touching money, cards, or devices in your practice. Whether it is at the time of service or afterward, you’ll get paid faster and provide another way for patients to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.

7. Set up a COVID-19 prescreening form.

It is highly likely that your office will reopen while COVID-19 is still being monitored. To prevent its spread and to save your staff and patients time, create a virtual patient check-in experience that includes COVID-19 pre-screening questions.

8. Add pre-visit instructions.

If you have been completely closed and did not create pre-visit instructions, make sure you do so now. The demand for treatment will be high when your practice reopens. Using a virtual check-in process (for Solutionreach customers, that would be through SR Intake) will allow you to work more efficiently and see more patients per day.

Phase 3: Growth – Thrive Going Forward

1. Encourage two-way texting.

Two-way texting is one of the most effective and impactful things you can add to a practice. If you are not currently using two-way texting, now is the time to do so. It makes it convenient for patients to communicate with your practice to ask simple questions, schedule an appointment, or get directions. Most people would prefer to text than call. If you are currently using two-way text, you need to encourage patients to start using it. Here are some ways to help do that:

  • Wherever your phone number is posted (website, social media, advertising, etc.), make sure you add “text” along with the word “call.”
  • Post a sign in your practice letting patients know they can text.
  • Put it on social media and your website. Make sure to include your phone number when you share the info online!
  • Use voicemail. Add a note to your voicemail and hold messages letting patients know they can text you. It can be as simple as: “If you’d prefer a text message instead of a phone call, send us a text at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

2. Set up a paperless check-in process.

To treat as many overdue patients as possible and to save your front desk staff time, we recommend implementing a paperless check-in process. Going paperless is also a more hygienic approach to combating COVID-19 and any other infectious diseases.

3. Use online scheduling.

Your practice is going to be juggling dozens of calls from patients who are overdue for treatment. Give your patients the option to schedule their appointment on your website at their convenience. Online scheduling can be a life-saver for practices and patients alike. If you already have an online scheduling option, here are some ways to get patients using it.

  • Use your website, social media, advertising, online listing, and voicemail. Try to get the information out anywhere you can.
  • Make it very obvious on your website. If you’ve simply put a tiny box at the bottom of the page letting people know about your online scheduling tool, they will likely ignore it. Instead, make it impossible to miss.

4. Strengthen your online reviews.

We all know that online reviews are the lifeblood of every practice. You can have a huge impact on the quality of reviews that are left on your site. Here are some ways you can encourage strong reviews:

  • Ask! There is no greater substitute than simply asking your patients for a review. Develop a plan and prepare your staff with ways to bring up the topic when they are speaking with patients.
  • Use a survey. Reviews can be collected through post-appointment surveys.
  • Send a text message or email inviting patients to leave a review. It’s easy and effective.
  • Incentivize your staff to ask for reviews through contests and rewards.
  • Put up signs in your waiting and treatment rooms asking patients to leave a review.

Source: Solutionreach

Thomas Apel Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.