Guest Column | June 8, 2020

Key Considerations For Organizations To Stabilize Operations In Uncertain Times

By IKS Health


In the years ahead, when we have time, and the benefit of hindsight - to look back on healthcare’s response to the COVID pandemic, will we see it as a scramble to meet unexpected demands or will it be a windfall that unlocks the regulatory and technological needs our industry has been requesting for some time? Organizations have the opportunity to strategically position themselves for success, leveraging their technology to create leaner, more efficient organizations with the same, or even improved, outcomes by stabilizing their administrative costs to adapt to today’s lean times but also to quickly scale when the pent up demand for services resumes. Groups that do this well will not only stand strong on the other side of this pandemic but will have the opportunity to quickly grow; gaining market share and leverage when others close their doors.

We’ve already seen the quick adaptation to move administrative work units off-site and to open virtual visits. The pandemic also has forced us to address the questions about what work is critical inside the clinic, and what work can we achieve off-site using a lower-cost model. Now that we will be spending, or have spent (depending on the state), our time operating in this model, we have been allowed to evaluate what works and is worth keeping for the future, and what would be better left on the sidelines as we move forward.

Scalable Administrative Infrastructure With A Variable Cost Model

Said another way, a scalable administrative infrastructure will allow organizations to scale up and down as the predicted waves of COVID-19 hit organizations. A flexible infrastructure means that organizations can quickly scale up functions as pent up demand returns to exam rooms. Identifying either an administrative partner to staff in lockstep with this need, shifting up or down, and to subsequently adjust their pricing as a percentage of your net collections instead of a fixed administrative fee will leave your organization in a stronger position to maintain viability through the volatility to come.

Telehealth As A Tool To Increase Access, Reduce Expense And Further A Deep Connection Between The Patient And Their Provider Of Choice

Most ambulatory organizations are reporting that 60 percent of their visits are virtual and now that the tool has been utilized by so many, organizations are asking, “Can we ever go back?” Though there are more questions organizations must answer, teams will need to focus on leveraging lessons learned to determine if the adjusted reimbursement model will work in the long-term. Predictions show that reimbursement for telemedicine may settle somewhere between 60 - 80 percent of in-person visits. And, as doctors are taking on more virtual clients or a greater mix of virtual patients, the workflows for both the doctor and support team need to be carefully thought through. Additionally, groups must ask: What administrative savings need to be identified, or what will increase access to telemedicine offer, to allow you to operate successfully in this model? Additionally, how will you enable your physicians to connect and build relationships and ensure the specialty or surgery referrals stay within network to further support your administrative demands?

Focus On Creating Leverage Through Aggregation And Plan Your Technological Roadmap

Interestingly, even as many economists are predicting a recession, we anticipate that providers who are in a positive cash position have an opportunity to seize the moment. Regardless of their size, groups are working increasingly hard to maintain their capital in the interest of gaining additional leverage as this crisis subsides. We believe that organizations that have not weathered this crisis as well may be more receptive to, or in need of, consolidating in the months ahead. For smaller practices, a key consideration for the future will be to remain independent, become an aggregator, or become acquired. We predict that the ramifications of this pandemic will further strain the few small independent provider groups remaining. Groups that can maintain some cash reserves will find themselves in a position of great leverage to pick up providers and practices and become the prominent player in their area. The technological implications related to standardization, scale, interoperability, and experience are critical questions that should be thought through now. However, with greater size comes greater resources and the opportunity to implement new and critical technologies. To this end, during this time, setting your intention for your technologies and how your organization will standardize and scale them will be critical and allow you to make smart, strategic decisions in the management of your practices in this turbulent time.