One would think that running a medical practice during a viral pandemic would be like winning the lottery. One would be very wrong. Doctors are not happy about coronavirus. While it is true that some doctors have more patients than they can treat, that is not true for all. Further, COVID-19 patients are not necessarily the most profitable patients from a business perspective.
During the first wave, many doctors stopped seeing patients. They were reduced to doing telemedicine over video conferencing. They would ask a patient about their symptoms. And if the symptoms fit the right profile, they would refer the patient to a hospital for a COVID-19 test. They didn’t want waiting rooms overflowing with patients spreading the disease to people who only had a common cold.
Specialists were in a much worse situation. All elective surgeries were indefinitely postponed. That hip replacement would have to wait. Many people who struggled with serious issues like cancer or heart-related issues had a hard time finding someone who would see them.
We are firmly into the second wave. And doctors are starting to face some of the same problems they had when the first wave came around. The holiday season will bring record-busting infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. No doctor is celebrating. They are bracing for impact. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your medical practice weather the storm:
Offer Patient Financing
Many of your patients were insured through their employer. Now, they no longer have an employer. If they can’t afford to continue paying for coverage, they will find themselves without insurance. And they certainly will not have the cash on hand to pay up front for services.
To maintain your clientele, look into adding some form of patient financing in-house through a service that specializes in such things. You will immediately be able to do the following:
- Offer patients flexible and personalized financing options to improve patient satisfaction.
- Open your door to more patients and speed up the payment cycle.
- Reduce the number of patients in accounts receivable.
- Significantly reduce bad debt and start getting paid faster.
If people were forced to pay up front for medical care, almost no one would be treated for anything. The office visit costs upwards of $300 for a specialist. Tests and scans can run into the thousands. That is before a single prescription is written. As a doctor, you have to realize that you will have few patients if they don’t have creative and affordable financing. That financing is not only a lifeline to your customers. It is a lifeline to your practice.
Treat Your Medical Practice Like a Business
Doctors sometimes forget they are business owners and not just dispensers of medical wisdom. No one is above it all. Your medical practice is a business. And if you do not run it well, you will find yourself as bankrupt as other businesses around you.
Get back to the business basics and write out a one-page business plan as a part of your pandemic survival guide. Recalibrate the number of patients you can see in terms of profitability balanced with good service. Think about what you can trim from the budget like those magazine subscriptions in the waiting room. No one should be handling those anyway.
You might want to divide your practice so that on some days, you only deal with COVID-19 patients. And on the other days, you only see patients without viral symptoms. That might encourage some patients to keep their appointments. They will not come into the office if they do not feel it is safe.
Take Care of Your Employees
9 months into the pandemic and we are still experiencing a PPE shortage. Hospitals are having to get creative to deal with it. You might have to close one day a week just to ease the burden. Asking people to work for you without adequate supplies is not going to work. In a crisis, you have to think of your employees as your first and primary patients. Without them, your practice will get sick and die. Don’t let that happen.
Doctors are people, too. As such, they make the same mistakes as everyone else, especially when it comes to their business. Make sure your medical practice thrives by offering patient financing, treating your practice like a business, and taking care of your employees.
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