April 15, 2020

Looking Ahead – COVID-19 and the Impact to Patient Access Operations

Matt Perron

COVID-19 seems to be bringing about day-to-day and even hour-to-hour changes to your operations as both best practices and regulations are adjusted.

In Part One of our deep dive, we talked about COVID-19 best practices you can implement now to help you continue to serve your patients and your community.

In Part Two, we look ahead at how some of these COVID-19 changes will impact your future operations and what you can do now to plan for them. Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what lies ahead but as you all have already proven, your adaptability in challenging times can be your biggest strength.

Below are a few key areas to think about:

  • Pent-up patient demand– Many organizations have rescheduled, or cancelled, most of their elective services. The reopening of those service lines in an efficient way will be essential for the financial health of organizations across the country. The patient access operations related to those services (authorizations, pre-registration, insurance verification, etc.) need to be maintained in a way that can be ramped up to meet demand when those services experience a surge in patients when social distancing requirements are relaxed. Stay in sync with your colleagues in clinic operations and surgery to understand how they plan to address patient demand and any steps being taken to increase capacity.
  • Insurance coverage– The surge in unemployment could also lead to a surge in loss of coverage, gaps in coverage, or Medicaid applications. You may need to dedicate additional resources to reviewing real time eligibility responses. This would also be a good time to revisit your insurance eligibility batches to make sure they are giving you enough lead time to process the additional results. It may also mean expanding your batches to include coverages that may already be considered “verified” and/or shorten your verification window.
  • Financial counseling– Financial counseling will be another area that will likely have increased demand. Many of your registration staff took on additional registration roles like registration over the phone or pre-registration. This could be an opportunity to do additional cross-training to expand who can help with financial counseling and assistance.
  • Payment Collection– For patients, the ability to pay for medical services will be impacted and interacting with patients in a compassionate way will be vital to their experience. Staff need to be prepared with the tools to handle those conversations, and organizations need to make it as easy as possible for patients to pay their bills. For information on how to have these conversations, check out our blog post on compassionate collections.
  • Embrace New Technology– You likely had to be creative with your use of existing technology to make update processes work. This could be an opportunity to embrace new technologies that will optimize your patient experience. Functionality like MyChart’s eCheck-In allows patients to enter in registration information, sign documents, or even pay copays online. The Hello Patient functionality uses geo-location to automatically arrive patients to your clinic as they arrive physically.
  • Telehealth visits– Almost all of you expanded your Telehealth services as part of COVID-19. Although the demand may decrease over time, Telehealth is here to stay. Now is the time to start fine-tuning your policies for Telehealth such as how consents will be captured and who will be managing the registration quality for these telehealth visits.
  • Undoing temporary policies– There have likely been many policy changes that were made quickly to address the ever-changing environment. Some of these policies could be reverted but there are also some policies that can become the new status-quo. Things like remote or patient-entered registration could create additional opportunities for your teams. Take an inventory of the temporary policies and identify which ones can be optimized and expanded upon to continue to create a patient-friendly and safe environment.

Thank you for all the work you are doing to mobilize your teams and take care of patients. We’ll continue to publish relevant content as the pandemic evolves. If you have questions, please contact Matt Perron at The Wilshire Groupm.perron@thewilshiregroup.net. Whether or not you are a current client, we have experts available to assist your team with COVID-19 response efforts and questions.

Matt Perron

Manager, Patient Access

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