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5 Ways Practice Managers Can Lead During COVID Slowdowns

To curb the spread of COVID-19, communities and nations are taking unprecedented measures to reduce non-essential physical interactions. As a result, many non-emergency healthcare providers and medical groups are seeing significant drops in patient volumes – forcing some to stop services altogether.

The financial impact of these slowdowns (or shutdowns) is undoubtedly causing unease and uncertainty for many practices and medical groups. However, this “pause” in action also presents an opportunity to assess practice operations and optimize strategies for future success.

Here are 5 things practice managers can do during this (hopefully shorter than longer) period to continue leading and improving their groups:

  • Pivot to Telehealth | Stay at home orders and social distancing may be reducing your in-office visit volumes, but many individuals still need access to regular, ongoing care from your practice – especially those with chronic conditions, complexmedications, or follow up needs. Medicare and commercial payers are encouragingproviders to utilize telehealth applications and are making it easier than ever to do so. There are a number of free video-conferencing tools available (Skype, FaceTime, that can be implemented quickly. A great resource to learn more is this guide from the AMA.
  • Adjust Staffing Levels | Reduced patient volumes will unfortunately necessitate temporary workforce reductions in some cases. While unpopular, this is a leadership responsibility that may be critical to support the future long-term health and sustainability of the practice. If temporary workforce reductions are necessary, it is important to use objective criteria – such as seniority or skill sets – to guide these decisions. Additionally, document your criteria and decision-making process with specificity in the event you are asked to defend your business decision.
  • Gain Lost Ground | The opportunities are endless for practice managers in this area:
    • MIPS/Quality: Update missing documentation or data capture to improve quality scores
    • Update employee handbook, policies, job descriptions, training materials
    • Conduct internal compliance audits – CLIA, OSHA, HIPAA, coding
    • Complete outstanding payer audits, medical record requests
    • Design and implement process improvements for critical workflows
    • Update website, social media accounts, and digital marketing content
  • Assess Operations | Use this time to assess your practice performance and identify opportunities for improvement moving forward. Consider some of the following:
    • Update revenue and expense projections to accurately reflect impact of slowdowns
    • Compare measurable performance areas against industry benchmark data
    • Evaluate and improve IT or facilities infrastructure
    • Assess effectiveness of team structures, supervisor responsibilities, org chart
    • Analyze payer contract allowable rates versus actual reimbursement
  • Strategic Planning | At the very least, these slowdowns present the opportunity to revisit fundamental strategic planning questions with physician leaders, such as:
    • Where/who are we right now? (SWOT analysis)
    • Who do we want to be as an organization?
    • What are our organizational Core Values?
    • What is our definition of success? How will we know we achieved it?
    • Where do we want to be 1, 3, 5 years?
    • How will we innovate and set ourselves apart?
    • What do we need to this (week, month, year) to achieve our goals?

While we cheer on our brave colleagues at the front lines of the battle against COVID, we as practice managers can continue working behind the scenes to make healthcare better.

For additional support on how to implement these in your practice, or for any other practice management questions, feel free to reach out directly.

Jared Schultz, MHA/MPH, CMPE
Director of Physician Services
Medical Specialties Managers, Inc.
(714) 464-1281

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