At long last, there is light at the end of the tunnel regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that changed our world, and the business of medicine, throughout the year 2020.
Here in early 2021, delays and unexpected operational and administrative challenges have slowed the distribution of the approved COVID vaccines developed by several pharmaceutical companies, and the picture remains murky as to who will be able to deliver the inoculations, who will be able to receive them, and when, and where. But, COVID-19 immunization has begun, albeit in small steps.
So overall, the big picture for 2021 is that physicians can expect a more normalized medical and business environment to emerge sometime in 2021, whether in the spring or summer of this year.
If your practice, Practice Group, or MSO has survived to this point, you and your staff deserve kudos for your resiliency, adaptability, commitment and creativity.
Optimize Your Medical Practice In 2021
As tempting as it may be (with normalization relief in sight) to take a breath and continue rolling along with the inertia of your modified practice operations and just wait or “coast” until things become normal again, this is actually the ideal time to act anew. The worst of the storm has been weathered, and now you have the perfect opportunity to use this interim before normalization to prepare in the weeks ahead for greater success and long-term survival.
Here are just a few of the components of your practice that you should be thinking about – and planning for – now:
- Where you are going with Telehealth: Now that you and your staff are used to it by necessity, it is time to establish a medical and business vision for how you want to use Telehealth in the future to optimize your time, revenue, and patient outcomes.
- Payer reimbursement changes for Telemedicine: As you know, CMS and Private Payers loosened and expanded numerous standards, rates, and coding for Telemedicine during the worst of the pandemic. Do you have a grasp on how that reimbursement will change, or revert to previous standards, later in 2021?
- Your preparedness level for CMS MIPS: CMS helped practices in the spring of last year by waiving many requirements for documentation and reporting and eliminating reimbursement penalties associated with low scoring/incomplete documentation, in order to cut red tape while clinicians were dealing with the onslaught of COVID. But a new Final Rule for 2021 has been issued by CMS – do you know the ramifications of that on your documentation and revenue?
- All-new “OpenNotes” patient data “unblocking” compliance – required by the Federal Government by April 5, 2021: Have you even heard of this new regulatory compliance requirement from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services? Most practices have not. But it is the law, and in the bill passed by Congress, the size of penalties per violation can be up to $1,000,000. View our previous article outlining OpenNotes.
- Staff hiring/re-hiring and training: Many practices, Practices Groups, and MSOs should – and will – be facing the administrative need to bring staff levels back up to pre-COVID levels, as sadly so many staff were laid off or let go when practice visits, elective surgeries, and office traffic were minimized both by circumstance, patient safety fears, and state government decree. Now is the time to plan your hiring and training schedule, so that staff training can be completed before normalized office traffic resumes.
- Take a fresh look at Revenue Cycle Management, EHR Optimization, and Financial Dashboards initiatives: If you were considering new initiatives in these areas for your practice a year or so ago – and then shelved those plans to deal with the COVID tsunami last March and beyond – now is the perfect time to revisit those plans and begin putting them in place before a normalized medical and business environment emerges this spring or summer. Practice financial dashboards are a visualization tool that can bring multiple data sources together to allow you to make better informed decisions with real-time data. View our previous article on Financial Dashboards here.
Rebuild Patient Volume After COVID-19
Ironically, the news last fall and winter of pending vaccines slowed the influx of patient visits – as those patients figured “well, if everyone’s going to be vaccinated by next spring, I’ll just wait ‘til then when it’s safer, (and put off a doctor’s visit for now).” Well, that day will be coming in 2021 – whether it’s in April, May, June, or thereafter.
So, now is the time to begin a major effort by your staff to reach out and reconnect with your patient population, to set the table for visits in the spring and rebuild patient volume. There is no escaping the fact that the most important way to do this is through an all-hands-on-deck effort of outbound calling on the telephone. Goal numbers must be set, reviewed in “Morning Huddles” in the office, and enforced by practice management “walking the floor” in the afternoon to check on call-quota progress. Your EHR must be mined for prospects of all sorts.
Of course, this outbound telephone-calling effort can be further enhanced by digital marketing tools, such as the use of your website, portal, and email, and even dynamic marketing platforms designed to automate and optimize patient sales communication.
Medical Advantage and TDC Group can help.
As the healthcare landscape has changed greatly in 2020, Medical Advantage has also adapted and expanded our services to better serve our clients and help physicians better navigate and avoid the pitfalls of a shifting and fluid new set of market, regulatory, and financial challenges. Our clients have remained at the forefront of this shifting market and emerged stronger and with expanded competitive advantage. Whether it is rebuilding patient volume, optimizing practice performance, realizing reporting and billing efficiencies, or navigating the ever-changing regulatory and payer environment – reach out to our consultants to see how we can help your practice thrive in 2021.
Medical Advantage, with our 20+ years of in-practice experience in profitability optimization – together with the overall resources of the TDC Group of which we are a member (a $6B entity serving over 100,000 healthcare providers and organizations as the nation’s largest provider of Insurance, Risk Management, and Healthcare Practice Improvement Solutions) – can help your organization achieve peak efficiency, survivability, growth and profitability in a myriad of ways.