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COVID-19 Relaunch and Recovery: You Have Questions, We Have Answers

COVID-19 Relaunch and Recovery: You Have Questions, We Have Answers

Hundreds of healthcare leaders and liaisons joined the recent COVID-19 Relaunch and Recovery Plan webinar hosted by Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies. Together, we walked through a checklist of 10 questions that are critical to evaluating their organization’s readiness to accommodate the return of elective surgeries, procedures and other deferred care.

Questions from attendees reflected concerns that many are experiencing, so we are offering a brief question and answer. Please reach out to us with your questions and ideas on how your organization is addressing these issues.

We are offering a complimentary strategy call with leadership teams who want to assess their readiness for living in the reality of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

Any foresight you can provide on the future of urgent cares and/or suggestions in marketing efforts?

Whether operating in an urgent care, clinic or hospital setting, most patients are fearful about the safety of entering your facility. They need confidence that your organization is safe. But, don’t assume you understand the full nature of the “fear factor.” Before you build marketing and communication plans, take the pulse of patients, staff and physicians with a simple survey. Then you can build a campaign with simple, transparent and consistent messages to address the real issues.

I'm hearing from PCP offices that they are concerned about how to manage increased requests for clearances for elective surgeries, especially if they are still working remotely or have providers not on a consistent schedule. What would you advise on this?

The operational assessment of all access points is a critical start. The status of reopening changes day to day and by geography. Their concerns may be heightened if this was a bottleneck before the crisis and it could become a choke point during the reopening. Engage your operational leaders to see if a quick value stream map or other analysis can quickly identify areas that can be streamlined by using telehealth, remote document signing and solutions you can apply to surgical clearances. We will also be closely tracking and sharing best practices for pre-surgical testing for COVID-19.

With changes to Home Care - offices have struggled to turn in their forms signed as appropriate. What would you advise on how to best handle this without upsetting offices too? We're all in this together but still need to meet mandates.

Given the ruling below, we’re not certain if the inpatient requirement is part of your dilemma.

We do know that COVID-19 turned home healthcare on its head. With hospitals admissions plummeting, home healthcare providers are feeling acute reimbursement pressures for patients who were referred as outpatients vs. as discharged inpatients. Much of the answer depends on what your requirements may be related to face-to-face signature and frequency of renewing. Similar to other operational issues, solutions such as docu-sign could be explored in the short term.

Starting in January 2020, Medicare started to reimburse home health agencies at a lower rate when they care for patients who have not been admitted to a hospital first.

Regarding an outreach “blitz” to quickly recover profitable service lines - what is the best way? fax, email and/or phone calls?

All of the above! Consider what your providers preferred in the past and adapt for the current status of your community’s reopening schedule. As we phase into reopening, be sure there is a well-coordinated, data-driven plan for strategic liaison outreach, and – ultimately – face-to-face visits. Every week is going to be different based on state guidelines. But the guidelines for effective outreach never change: Plan your visit (live or virtual) with value in mind. Then be brief, be brilliant and be gone!

How do you move forward to make sure patients are safe?

Healthcare workers are leading the rest of the community on safety measures with the use of disinfectant, masks, handwashing, social distancing and more. Remember, just because we have not had elective surgeries, people have been going to the hospitals and seeing their Primary Care team safely throughout this crisis. Model safety-conscious behavior and be sure your community sees you doing so.

How long should outreach visits be time wise?

Typically, we suggest spending as much time as necessary on each visit to ensure it is impactful. But there is no magic number. To bring providers back up to speed, you may need to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Use data to prioritize which practices/providers should be at the top of your recovery blitz target list. Plan your visits (virtual or live) very carefully. Allocate your time and stage your outreach to ensure all targeted providers receive the necessary communication.

I've been a liaison for 2 years, and I don’t have access to any data - what should I do?

First, I would seek the direction of senior leadership on the best avenue to obtain access to internal data. All organizations have this data. With fairly simple tools, it can be extracted in a usable format directly from your EMR which makes this data almost real time. The PRM our clients use, TrackerPLUS, is housed with internal referral and volume data, by physician and is immediately actionable. As it relates to external referral and claims data for the purposes of the recovery effort, we “pull” claims data to provide your teams the necessary referral data to create the recovery strategy.

If furloughs have impacted service line or outreach teams - any advice on prioritizing them for call back?

For the service line leaders, this will be largely driven by the expected post-COVID volume for each service line. The first step in this process will be quantifying and prioritizing the potential influx volume. For the outreach teams, this will also be data- driven, focusing on the referral data to determine the effort necessary to execute the outreach portion of the recovery efforts. You may have an opportunity to cross-train and deploy your best-performing liaisons into the service lines or geographic areas where you need to recover most quickly.

What is the best way to ramp-up using the outreach team, even during the work-from-home period?

Across the country, liaisons are sharing with us that they are using their time at home to call, email, text and even fax (yes, fax!) providers to stay in touch. Note: This is not just asking if they “need anything.” Specific questions related to their current pain points will supply you with information you need to think ahead about how to specifically help them as they ramp up.

This also provides provider insights that liaisons are sharing with their hospital leadership to aid them in their ramp up strategies. The way it was is NOT the way it will be. Doing this “homework” is vital to COVID-19 relaunch and recovery.

Have you still been onboarding new providers during this time?

Yes, our hospitals and practices are continuing to onboard new physicians and advanced practice providers who are considered essential providers. It does require creativity with remote technology and some flexibility. But if you have built a formalized, robust onboarding process, the adjustments can happen more fluidly. If they need to be fingerprinted, for example, they may be doing that locally vs while in town if some on-site visits are postponed or cancelled. Mentorship programs are valuable now more than ever. New providers need reassurance and help navigating a new organization when resources are scarce.

In terms of mergers and acquisitions, how do you rate the threat of venture capital groups entering the market?

This will be largely market-specific. The risk will be substantially higher in independent markets and in markets where the struggling (acquirable) organizations are larger and more abundant. These organizations will be attractive targets for fund management firms that drive value and ROI to investors through consolidation.

How can Tiller-Hewitt help us?

We can help you with any or all of the recovery effort. Our robust data team and platforms can help to quantify the projected influx in volume and target critical referral sources. Our process improvement experts can lead capacity enhancement efforts. Our strategy teams can develop recovery strategies and for those of you that do not have an outreach team with the capacity or experience to execute a rapidly recovery blitz, we have a team of Tiller-Hewitt trained liaisons that can be deployed short-term to assist organizations execute the field outreach.

The “Big” Lesson Learned – So Far

Standing with the teams on the front lines, we take forward the “big lesson learned” during the initial crisis: Those with better relationships with stakeholders – including their providers and even competitors – made the initial crisis a lot less bumpy for their organizations.

Collaboration is the only way forward. Outreach teams that have built strong, trusted adviser relationships with providers and their staff will make collaboration efforts smoother and more effective. That is key for living with the reality of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

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Our team stands ready to engage virtually for rapid development and execution of your COVID-19 Relaunch and Recovery Plan.

To schedule a complimentary strategy call contact 1-866-651-8701, TGT@TILLERHEWITT.COM or submit the form below.