Talking “care gaps” while everyone is talking “coronavirus” is a bit like talking to a brick wall. So is “preventive care,” “non-critical regular screenings,” and other services that are directly attributable to the continued best health of literally every member and patient on each organization’s roll call.
Of course, it’s understandable why COVID-19 is taking up so much oxygen in the day-to-day operations and communications. But it’s no less frustrating that such staples of quality healthcare as regularly scheduled checkups and closing care gaps are having to take such a back seat.
Many patients are staying away
Recent poll results are concerning. An April study found that 48% of patients say they are unlikely to visit with their primary care physicians for regular care at the present time. A May study confirmed that nearly half of all patients postponed or skipped medical care due to the pandemic – indicating that many new care gaps are beginning to surface.
Sixty-two percent in the former study stated they will refrain from using any hospital services for non-COVID issues. And even walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities are feeling the pinch with 65% of patients opting not to visit at all during this current environment.
The view from physician practices, according to an additional survey, shows that 89% have reported decreased patient volumes, perhaps even instigated by the practices themselves as 81% of them have chosen to limit their incoming well care and chronic care visits.
Restrictions are beginning to ease. Are patients coming back?
The patient “tide” is at least starting to shift positive in the current landscape of a reopening economy and a relaxing of restrictions, albeit slowly. Becker’s Hospital Review reports that 68% of Americans are anticipating reactivating the care they delayed over the last several months. Unfortunately, that leaves a hefty 32% who have no healthcare plans at all!
That’s nearly a third of all Americans who have at least one care gap. No doubt there is an urgent need for outreach from their healthcare provider. But what can you say to these absent patients to bring them back to the office?
Telling your patients “we’re back!”
To stem the flow of patients staying away from their providers and begin heading them back in the right direction, take a tip from retail and hold your own “grand re-opening.”
Without actually ever closing your offices, announce that you have “re-opened” your practice and have taken the extra steps to ensure one and all that their safe visits to the doctor are now safer still.
Confirm the many procedures you now employ to:
- sanitize every surface in the office
- keep all staff and caregivers fully equipped with the best personal safety equipment (PSE) available (maybe even offer free masks and gloves to patients, if you have them to spare)
- enact social distancing policies and staggered appointment scheduling to ensure that patients are not in close contact in waiting areas
Really make your patient outreach count
Almost as important as getting the right message out is getting it to the right people – through personalized outreach such as SPH’s Smart Patient Engagement. SPH can stratify your patient list and single out precisely those high-risk patients who can benefit most by closing a key gap in their care. Then, your tailored message can be sent through any modality (mail, live phone call, email, text, or IVR) – whatever would best motivate the patient to schedule a visit at their earliest opportunity. Or let SPH phone agents take the next step and schedule the appointment with their doctor while the patient is on the phone.
What are some other provider organizations doing to get their regular care patients back on a regular schedule of physician-led healthcare? Some get a little creative with patient scheduling, while others adopt online or mobile screening, and drive-up services.
No one doubts that when COVID-19 is finally in the rear-view mirror, regularly scheduled physician visits will resume. But until then, it’s up to practices to step up and take a more hands-on approach to reaching out and welcoming their patients back to the office.
SPH’s Smart Patient Engagement is an ideal solution for getting your patients back on schedule – whether you use it once on an ad hoc basis or for ongoing outreach. Read more about it here, and contact your SPH representative for an overview today.