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Physician Practice Guide to Reopening Post COVID-19

The Physician Practice Guide to Reopening Your Office in a Post COVID-19 Environment


As individual states take a phased-in approach to reopen businesses after the initial COVID-19 quarantine this spring, it’s vital that your physician practice or medical group have a plan to reopen safely as well.

With no vaccine imminently available, patients will be hesitant to visit doctor’s offices. Providers, clinicians, and support staff will rethink how they interact with and treat patients. And your physician practice must be prepared to quickly make changes to your day-to-day operations to secure the long-term success of your business.

Right now, the only certainty is uncertainty. When you do reopen your doors to patients, it will not be business as usual.

To assist your physician practice or medical group make sense of this new reality, our team developed this guide to offer solutions for the various ways this pandemic will transform your business.

Read this guide to learn more about:

  • The scope of the safety concerns of your patients, clinicians, and staff
  • New ways to observe social distancing while continuing to offer the best patient care
  • How important it is to communicate with your patients during this unprecedented time

The safety of your patients, clinicians, and staff is paramount

Before patients will step back into your office, they want to be confident that your practice has made changes that minimize the possibility that they will be exposed to COVID-19, or any other virus, during a routine office visit.

Here are a few options to consider that will reduce the possibility of exposure:

  • Move check-in processes to exam rooms
  • Reconfigure the waiting room to provide for physical separation
  • Ensure that masks and hand sanitizer are available to patients
  • Add plexiglass barriers to patient check-in and check-out areas
  • Allow time for staff to properly clean and disinfect exam rooms between patient visits

While you may already use personal protective equipment (PPE) when interacting with patients and have hand sanitizer widely available throughout your office, you should document and evaluate these critical processes and procedures and identify ways to improve upon them.

Also, it’s not just your patients who are worried about being exposed to the virus. The providers, clinicians, and support staff who ensure your business runs smoothly also seek peace-of-mind. They want assurance that your policies and changes to day-to-day operations protect them as well.

Reimagine what social distancing means for delivering patient care

Beyond making PPE and hand sanitizer available, COVID-19 will also have a dramatic impact on how providers and clinicians deliver patient care and interact with patients moving forward.

The CDC’s social distancing guidelines call for people to stay at least 6 feet from one another and avoid crowded places. Short of drastically reducing the number of patients your office sees every day, it may be difficult for you to imagine how you will serve your patients while also observing the social distancing requirements.

Instead of dreading the changes social distancing demands of your day-to-day operations, physician practices and medical groups can turn this difficult time into an opportunity to build a more agile, patient-centered business focused on delivering quality patient care.

Following are seven ways to innovate patient care at your practice while still observing social distance requirements:

  • 1. Encourage use of your patient portal by proactively reaching out to patients who don’t currently have access
  • 2. Establish a protocol to evaluate potential COVID-19 symptoms and determine which patients require an office visit versus those that should be seen via telehealth; refer to the CDC’s phone script tool for guidance
  • 3. Virtual waiting room
  • 4. Option to pre-register and complete paperwork online
  • 5. Contactless customer service that includes payment options at the time of service and ability to book future appointments
  • 6. Send patient care plans and visit summaries via email or text
  • 7. Make telehealth visits and virtual care available for routine follow-up appointments such as prescription refills, discussing lab and diagnostic testing results, and other similar types of appointments that are generally scheduled for 15-20 minutes

You may also want to consider enabling your support staff to work from home a few days per week and reconfiguring your office space for multiple entrances to reduce the possibility of exposure further.

While you’re eager to get back to business, investing in technology solutions that reduce exposure but also make it more convenient for patients to make appointments, pay their bills, and continue a relationship with you will ensure a healthy long-term revenue model.

Clear and consistent communication is critical

Whatever changes you make to how your practice or medical group operates, it’s critical to communicate that your patients’ personal health and safety are of utmost importance.

It will not be enough to change your policies. You must also clearly and effectively share what those changes are to assure patients your practice takes their safety concerns seriously.

As equally important is to remind your patients that their long-term health beyond COVID-19 is also vital. Mammograms, MRIs, and other routine medical procedures can also help save lives.

You want to encourage your patients to feel safe in balancing the management of their day-to-day health concerns as they continue to minimize their risk of being exposed to COVID-19 while no vaccine is available.

Visiting a doctor’s office is also essential, and it’s important to reiterate that to your patients.

What’s your plan to reopen safely?

This guide is intended to help your physician practice or medical group develop a strategy for safely reopening your office after the COVID-19 shutdown.

MSM’s high-touch team of experts who understand your business, can modernize your practice and offer consumer-driven solutions that your patients will utilize and appreciate long after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Mark Quenan
VP Practice Management Services
Medical Specialties Managers, Inc.

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