Reshaping Your Patient Engagement Strategy: Learnings from the Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis currently peaking throughout the country has had an impact on every aspect of our lives, none so great as on the lives of the brave nurses and clinicians battling the virus on the front lines. Meanwhile, as our partners and providers have had to focus on responding to the virus and caring for those affected, many other services have been curtailed, causing plunging revenues and forcing many to cut costs. Painful decisions to cut pay and furlough staff not related to COVID-19 has been a hallmark of this pandemic and one that certainly has us all asking, “What is the new normal going to look like?” and “How do we come back?”
Recent discussions with our partners and have highlighted several key learnings from this unprecedented time.
1. Overall patient communications needs a “strategy”
The lack of centralized data repositories, inaccurate patient information, and the need for multi-channel capabilities to reach patients, en masse, and meet them where they are, has shown us how challenging it is to effectively reach patients with the information they needed in a crisis like COVID-19. And while we struggle to react, data from a recent IDC survey of 1,515 adult patients in the U.S. shows that this outbreak has propelled consumerism in healthcare and patients are finally turning the tide and using patient engagement technology to take control of their own health.
According to an article in Patient Engagement HIT, going forward, “healthcare organizations should act on those patient behavior trends while also expanding their patient outreach channels.” When you prepare to bring patients back, a focused, coordinated reengagement strategy that leverages text, email and live person to provide them with coordinated information will be vital. This proactive outreach planning will be critical to “coming back online” and regaining financial stability.
Returning to a “new normal” and adapting to the changes we have undergone will undoubtedly cause a strain on existing resources. There will likely be an enormous spike in workload for outreach to reschedule cancelled elective procedures, move patients to where capacity has been newly created, and offer alternative options such as virtual care. We can help you design an immediate recovery plan to meet this challenge.
Envera’s ability to use its customizable technology platform alongside our provider teams can allow us to segment populations, connect with them on their terms and generate appointments when and where it is most critical to bring patients back to the healthcare system.
2. Fixed costs are hard to convert
Healthcare delivery requires people which is why labor is typically the highest expense of any healthcare system. The current need to quickly mitigate the financial impacts to the business through staff reduction becomes difficult when costs are fixed.
Even in a non-COVID economic climate, according to Healthcare Finance News back in 2018, the industry was facing the need to reduce costs by 24 percent just to break even and should be exploring outsourcing solutions to do so. The use of technology and alternative staffing models has been a key benefit for many businesses during this current situation and has illustrated the benefits of flexibility. The experience can serve as an opportunity to learn from those businesses and adjust your dependencies to improve margins with a more flexible infrastructure going forward.
Colin Mellon, Fiserv’s Senior VP of Healthcare Solutions, speaking about how the country has adapted during the time of COVID-19 noted that “the ability for American commerce and American business and American healthcare to be agile and embrace technology shows we can make fast changes to make things better.” The key is to consider adopting these rapid changes made during the pandemic into your organization when the crisis passes.
Envera offers a wide variety of services, people, and technology that can allow you to receive the benefits of engaging patients while saving your precious resources and improving your patient’s experience during this time when they need you the most. You pay only for what you need while receiving a contractual guarantee, allowing you to reduce costs while improving margin during a time of ongoing budget constraints.
3. Focus on what you do best
When the urgency of the crisis demanded focus, our healthcare system did what it does best – provided healthcare to those who needed it. As you continue to concentrate on treating patients and saving lives, you simply don’t have the resources or expertise to plan and execute on what’s next.
While patient engagement and access is typically not a function that is core to delivering care, it is critical to keeping your business alive. The immediate furloughing of large numbers of non-essential healthcare personnel or transferring them to COVID-19 activities has likely hampered your ability to communicate with patients at a time when they need you most.
Seeking partners in delivering non-core services like contact center and patient engagement services, can help to eliminate the need to deal with the hassles of recruiting, training, supervising, and retaining personnel. According to Hospital & Healthcare Management, by outsourcing non-core functions, providers can, in theory, reduce costs while improving service levels and patient outcomes. It will also allow for less capital spending to continuously upgrade call center facilities, technology, and infrastructure. We also offer a program where we absorb your employees into our organization. They retain their positions while you enjoy the benefits of having an outsourced patient access partner. We have implemented this solution in the past with great success ensuring a seamless transition for your call center activity.
4. You must be scalable
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for scalability and flexibility when it comes to engaging patients and deploying resources. The spread of the virus has confronted you with two competing priorities – increasing communication with patients to keep them up to date and converting scheduled visits to a virtual appointment while at the same time cutting resources to reduce payroll.
Finding ways to ramp up and plan while containing costs without worrying about resources is the near-term challenge. In the “new normal,” the benefit of having a scalable solution for patient access can be just as important. An in-house model struggles to handle unknown volumes and spikey intervals that leave you understaffed at some points in the day but overstaffed at others. This volume variability can make it difficult to staff for both efficiency and efficacy and can lead to poor service and high costs.
Envera can optimize your capacity regardless of the situation on an ongoing basis, something that is particularly beneficial in the current unpredictable situation. We can provide a scalable, flexible call center team that can easily adjust to the peaks and valleys of call volume eliminating the need for you to worry about handling this unpredictable workload.
Getting beyond the crisis
This pandemic will pass. Our brilliant medical professionals will find a way to contain the disease, and we will all get back to living our lives and running our businesses. The most important question we are hearing now is “how”? What will the “new normal” look like and how can we plan for doing things differently as we come back from this crisis? The overriding lesson of the crisis is that we know it must be different, and now is the time to prepare for change.
 Three Keys to Implementing Successful Patient Engagement Strategies, by Wolters Kluwer, Patient Engagement HIT, September 24, 2018
 The Healthcare Innovation Opportunities Out Of The COVID-19 Crisis, Sections PYMNTS.com web site, March 30, 2020