Reopening Challenges Facing Provider CEOs

As healthcare providers across the country prepare to reopen, it will not be business as usual. Just a few months ago, providers, state and federal governments and investors raced to develop care strategies to meet the needs of a growing crisis. As stay-at-home orders expanded throughout the country, temporary closures of medical practices and care centers became normalized. With phased reopening commencing nationwide, healthcare providers are preparing to resume operations.

CEOs must satisfy the same stakeholders as before, even as new rulebooks are being written. Reopening while honoring commitments to regulators, payers, team members, shareholders and ultimately the individuals for whom they exist to serve has created a unique and dynamic leadership challenge.

In the post-pandemic era, provider CEOs across the US are problem solving for the following:

  1. New regulations, today and tomorrow

Unprecedented temporary regulatory rules and waivers swept across the healthcare system in response to the pandemic. Reimbursements, paperwork requirements and workforce regulations were substantially adjusted during the crisis. These changes enabled providers to rapidly adapt to virtual care methods, adjusted patient volumes, and new staffing needs.

As providers prepare to reopen, staying informed on updated regulatory guidelines will be critical. While temporary adjustments in telehealth, diagnostic testing and billing, enable an increase in providers agility, it is unclear which regulatory changes will remain permanent. Providers are now preparing for a continuous cycle of regulatory changes as the healthcare industry adapts to a its new environment.

  1. Regionalized playbooks

The prevalence of COVID-19 has drastically varied between regions. Reopening plans are therefore heavily localized. Organizations servicing a national or multi-regional geographic footprint are developing geographically dependent reopening protocols.  It is crucial that organizations collaborate with local authorities to monitor population health data around infection rates, treatment availability and community needs.

Phased reopening plans are prevalent everywhere. These plans depend on local testing, treatment, data and health system capacity. By evaluating reopening plans on a local level and remaining agile to evolving conditions, CEOs and company leadership are responding with well-informed, regionalized reopening playbooks that emphasize patient and provider safety.

  1. Consumer fear & engagement

The pandemic has created an influx of consumer safety concerns. By educating consumers, providers are addressing and diffusing concerns which drives patient engagement and impacts visitation volumes. Providers are emphasizing the long-term benefits of preventative care – crucial in improving overall population health and in the avoidance of acute care visits.

Specialty care providers – such as ophthalmology, dentistry and dermatology – are facing unique risk-reward challenges. With risk-reward questions on the forefront of consumer minds, these providers are employing multi-pronged re-engagement strategies like virtual care, telehealth and social distancing during in-person visits to increase perceived value and impact consumer behavior.

  1. A culture of workplace safety

To best serve their customers, CEOs know they must first serve their employees. Clear organizational communication with clinicians and staff is crucial in creating a company-wide environment around workplace safety. When alignment and accountability are achieved regarding an organization’s commitment to a safe, low-risk work environment, teammates can operate with comfort and compassion. A variety of safety tactics – such as temperature screening, ample personal protective equipment accessibility, contact minimization and increased sanitization – signal to teammates and to patients that the organization is committed to safety and wellbeing.

  1. New gear, new tools

In the post-pandemic provider environment, all team members need the appropriate gear and tools to get into the game. Facemasks, shields, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and diagnostic tests are now among the standard supplies. Medical supply chains globally have struggled to meet the new demand. As a result, there have been worldwide shortages in critical healthcare products. As providers prepare to reopen, high demand products like personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitization products and testing kits must be secured for all teammates ranging from the physicians to reception staff.

Adaptability and detailed preparation are enabling healthcare practices across the US to reopen successfully. It is unlikely care delivery models will revert to a pre-pandemic “normal” anytime soon. A hesitant workforce, worried customer base, strict regulations, new equipment needs, and myriad of additional factors have converged to redefine standard operating practices. Agile CEOs are responding to create the cultural and operational environment necessary to succeed.

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