Doctor with pediatric patient

COVID-19 Effect on Medical and Dental Practices — What is the Doctor to Do?

Practices nationwide are seeing a decrease in volume due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I hear stories from physicians’ and dentist’s family members that they are surviving off their billings from the last 90 -120 days.  Even big corporations are reducing hours or furloughing workers due to the low patient volumes and lack of revenue.  These are difficult economic decisions that can be overwhelming for small to medium medical and dental practices.  I previously attached to our LinkedIn page a list of tips from the AMA on how to keep your practice in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These were excellent tips that you should keep accessible and consider for your practice.  In addition, with the passing of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package (“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act”) you may be able to maintain your employees on the payroll.  The Paycheck Protection Program provides approximately $350 billion in small business loans and if by some chance you have already laid off some workers you may be able to recoup the full amount of the payroll costs for those workers if you rehire them by June 30th.

Regardless, your practice and staff will have to cope with low volumes.  What are some practical things you could have your staff do safely under the CDC’s guidelines while your volume is low?  Obviously, telehealth could improve some of your volumes, and if you have not yet started, time spent setting up this modality seems prudent.  There are many other things you always thought you needed to do but there was never enough time in the day to complete them.  Here are some ideas….

  • Implement or optimize your electronic medical record system. You could introduce a new system, perfect your current process while your volume is low, or scan in “older” records for archival purposes.  Prior to this downtime, were you thinking about changing your EMR vendor or freeing space but didn’t do it because of the challenge of changing while you had a full practice?  Most would agree that you can always improve and optimize the EMR process.
  • Review all or your standard forms (consent forms, operating policies, notices) and make sure they are current and appropriate.
  • Update all patient follow-up educational materials
  • Develop or revise your website.
  • Redesign your clinic flow process to maximize efficiency.
  • Renovate your office, paint, update the décor. Consider whether telehealth will result in your having excess clinic space and what options are realistic for re-design, scaling back or sub-leasing.

These are just a few ideas that may allow you and any available, healthy team members to work during these difficult times.  I am sure you have many other ideas; would you be willing to share them with your fellow practitioners?  Let’s start the conversation.

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