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THE NEW NORMAL
What Has Changed?
High Risk Environments
Employees of businesses in the health sector are at a particularly high risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Employee safety and health is the most urgent concern.
Concerns Over Medical Procedure Safety
The cancellation of elective medical procedures has made customers fearful of all medical practices, resulting in people waiting longer to seek medical treatment.
Insurance and Litigation Fears
Due to the hands-on nature of healthcare, businesses face the risk of litigation if an employee or customer contracts COVID-19 after treatment. Currently, insurance does not necessarily protect against this risk.
Businesses in the healthcare sector are particularly vulnerable to suffering from price gouging by essential medical suppliers, and currently face increased costs for materials. This is especially difficult when vital supplies are allocated on a per-company basis.
Businesses in this sector are looking into joining the race to supply their own branded essential medical materials, such as masks, gloves, scrubs, thermometers, and other necessary items as demand for healthcare rises.
Medical suppliers, health and fitness centers, and physical therapy clinics are developing strategies to differentiate their care through excellent customer service.
Businesses are looking into online video technology for virtual appointments to reduce the risk of infection. This opens up options for providing diagnosis and prescriptions when previously unavailable.
Supply Chain Resilience
Supply chains will become more local and diverse to reduce reliance on one provider of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Previously, China was the majority supplier of medical supplies, leading to slowdowns and disruptions as the coronavirus spread. By diversifying and localizing supply chains, businesses can ensure consistency and resilience of supplies even in times of crisis.
Facility Format Change
Concerns over safety will likely require businesses with a high degree of physical contact to change their facility’s format. Hospitals have started doing this by providing “ambulatory surgery centers” separate from hospitals to make patients more comfortable.
Drop in Health Insurance
Between March 1st and May 2nd, 27 million people lost employer sponsored health insurance in the US. 5.7 million of those people are not eligible for any health insurance, including Medicaid, COBRA continuation, or Affordable Care Act subsidies. This leads to decreased demand and revenue for health care.
How Should I Recover?
Provide customers guidance about safe behaviors
- Both general and vulnerable populations will need access to actionable self-protection information in order to feel safe interacting with healthcare providers.
- Educate patients and the public when it is safe to seek care. This would include a staggered approach to patient care based on risk status and need.
- Consider setting aside separate hours or entrances/exam rooms for at-risk patients.
- Consider patients’ new lifestyles, and think about what hours are likely most convenient for them to come to the business. Cater hours to match customer’s needs.
- Communicate measures being taken to ensure patient safety.
- If possible, let patients enter and exit through separate entrances.
- Prescreen patients for COVID symptoms at the time of scheduling and check their temperature upon entering the office.
- Ensure availability of hand sanitizer stations.
Encourage social distancing, safety and health
- Ensure adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and mental health resources are available for employees.
- Maintain telehealth appointments when possible and work on moving to a hybrid model.
- Establish systems to diagnose patients remotely, deliver medicine and rehabilitation equipment, as well as provide home recovery materials and education.
- Offer patients the option to sign and fill out forms online prior to appointment.
- Ask patients to sign waivers prior to appointment online to reduce risk of litigation.
- Safety protocols should include managing patient flow, limiting visitation, checking temperatures, remote check-ins, etc.
- Stagger scheduling of patients and employees to minimize the number of people in the facility at any given time. This might require having longer hours to maintain total volume of people served and compensate for reduced capacity.
- Disinfect or remove high touch surfaces in waiting areas and offices such as magazines, toys, coffee machines.
- Modify operations to minimize patient time in common areas.
- Consider shifting vulnerable staff to different roles such as consulting with younger staff, working from home, helping make decisions, talking to patients’ family members, etc.
- Require both employees and patients to wear masks, but be aware of those who may face difficulties (e.g. patients with respiratory diseases).
Account for disruptions that will impact general operations
- Create a financial and staffing plan for gradual reopening stages.
- Watch for medication shortages. Consider alternatives and set expectations with patients if shortages become apparent.
- Verify patient contact and insurance information upon opening. This is likely to have changed due to economic repercussions of the pandemic.
- Limit the volume of patients to x% of capacity.
Create a flexible plan
- Healthcare institutions that already had online appointments and telehealth available perform better than those that did not have these capabilities previously set up. While an interim online platform is useful, establishing a robust online system for patient care will be important (Sesame for instance).
- Consider having providers go to patient homes directly. If this is possible for the type of care provided, consider if this option would fit client needs and make them more comfortable.
- Heavily push the benefits of the flu vaccine to reduce another situation where the healthcare system is overwhelmed.
- Utilize completely separate areas or stations for flu shots so people feel safe receiving them.
Manage employee needs
- Childcare will be an ongoing issue for many workers. Consider solutions that will enable them to continue working and look after their kids. More concrete examples are provided under Phase Three recommendations below.
- Establish COVID-19 internal hotlines and emergency procedures. This will ensure quick and coordinated response in case of an outbreak.
Build supply chain resiliency
- Ensure inventory is enough to maintain operations through future slowdowns. Plan for at least 3 months at a time in case government mandates require multiple closures.
- In case of future supply chain disruptions, build a list of alternate suppliers of critical medical supplies. Some free online domestic suppliers: ThomasNet, Maker's Row, MFG, Kompass
- Invest in 24 x 7 monitoring of global supply chains to ensure most up-to-date information about resource availability. Check the latest information for various categories of imported products on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, and trade statistics and tariff data on USITC Data Web.
- Revise supply chain management and business continuity plans to include risk mitigation for challenges observed during coronavirus.
Alter physical space for comfort, safety, and efficiency
- Create separate stations complete with all tools for any activity central to business.
- Create separate stations per client.
- Optimize space in terms of the least amount of movement around the facility as possible.
- Build clear paths for employees and patients to maneuver throughout the business.
Maximize use of social media
- Leverage the power of social media platforms to keep existing customers informed and attract new ones.
- Use platforms that are relevant to your target client. These can include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp.
- Ensure the business’ Google My Business account is established and up to date. This can be an easy way to let the public know business hours and access to other sites referencing the business.
Expect more community engagement
- Expect greater public and government interest in the management of healthcare institutions. Maintaining good PR will be crucial. Be able to answer the question “What did you do during COVID-19?”
- Stronger reporting requirements will require more meticulous data-keeping. Invest in up-to-date systems capable of dealing with stringent reporting reqs.
- See what Accenture says about community engagement .
Prepare for ongoing distanced care
- Consumers will remain wary of going to hospitals for some time. Brainstorm ways to replace the revenue from elective operations.
- There will likely be higher expectations about distance care and telemedicine. Develop new monetized services that can be performed remotely.
- See what Accenture says about distanced care
Keep ahead of supply needs
- The ability to move workers from home and back rapidly will be crucial. Create a strategy to rapidly resupply workforce in times of surging demand.
- Evaluate supply chains and develop “Plan B”s. Localized spikes may lead to disruptions of supply chains for some time to come.
Support employee childcare needs
- Consider subsidizing child care for employees. This benefit is also tax deductible for the business.
- Make sure schedules are either flexible and/or stable for employees with children.
- Consider providing onsite childcare. This is a much larger scale solution, but it could provide an extra revenue stream from clients and increased employee satisfaction and morale. This article describes the financial benefits of providing childcare.
- Launch a parent support group for employees within your business. Harvard Business Review provides some tips on doing this effectively.
The University of Louisville Trager Institute
The University of Louisville Trager Institute has been able to operate its clinic at full capacity despite the stay home order.SEE FULL STORY
Gibraltar Business Group
Gibraltar Business Group quickly pivoted their medical supply business by utilizing their existing resources to create their own line of branded scrubs
Renew Physical Therapy
Renew Physical Therapy’s clinic shifted to provide virtual appointments via Telehealth and e-Wellness options to reduce the risk to patients and employees.SEE FULL STORY
Tools to Adapt
Think about using robotics and drones to reduce physical contact. Examples of functions can include cleaning, operating kiosks, and more.
Ensure a telehealth system to keep clients on schedule and promptly served. One instance of a platform that allows virtual appointment is Sesame’s pivot to offer telehealth services.
Cloudleaf is a technology company that utilizes advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and advanced analytics to provide continuous, real-time visibility into supply chains.
In addition to creating a Google My Business account, registering the business on other local citation lists is a great way to boost visibility. Here is a site with a list of directories mostly for doctors. It specifies which lists are free or cost a fee. Here is a site with a list of directories for more general businesses.
Useful Industry Resources
Find More Ways to Help You
Universal Safety Precautions for Practices and Facilities
This resources outlines a list of best practices for opening up a medical practice, created by the Medical Society of the State of New York.SEE FULL STORY
SCORE Action Plan
SCORE release an action plan tailored for healthcare providers.SEE FULL STORY