In one way or another, every country and every industry has been touched by the COIVD-19 pandemic. The highly contagious virus has upended healthcare systems and economies across the globe.
It’s not hard to imagine how the new coronavirus has affected major hospitals and other facilities accepting COVID-19 patients. However, the virus’ impact on the healthcare sector reaches far beyond just those treating coronavirus patients directly.
For example, many overwhelmed hospitals have had to turn patients over to smaller clinics and private medical practices. While these facilities may not treat coronavirus patients, they’ve still felt the stress on resources and labor.
Understanding the broader implications of the pandemic may help you provide better care and operate your facility more efficiently if you manage a clinic or medical practice.
The Economy and Healthcare Industry
Since late February 2020, COVID-19 has destabilized the global economy on an alarming scale. The damage started in China, then spread to Europe, and eventually made its way to the rest of the world.
The virus and the corresponding social isolation and shelter-in-place orders have disrupted essential supply chains across the globe. In turn, many people are out of work and are in need of necessary supplies. Furthermore, unemployed workers in the U.S. have overwhelmed the unemployment benefit system, and many people have lost health care coverage that was tied to their employment.
The cracks are already showing in the medical sector despite being categorized under ‘essential’ services as clinics and private practices see dramatic drops in inpatient volume nationwide.
Economically, clinics and private practices have experienced turbulence unlike any other business sector. On the one hand, many patients with non-critical injuries and illnesses have either switched to telehealth services or have decided not to seek medical attention. Social isolation prerogatives have dramatically decreased the physical traffic of non-critical patients at clinics and smaller practices.
On the other hand, these clinics still immense responsibility. They must: care for patients with chronic illnesses, take over treatment for patients pushed out of hospitals accepting COVID-19 patients, and conduct telehealth visits with their usual patients.
So, where does this leave clinics? Demand for care has increased in some ways, but decreased in others, making finances unpredictable. Also, demands for telehealth have forced insurance providers to find solutions for new forms of care.
Global Morale Takes a Hit
Employee morale has taken a significant hit around the globe, and medical staff members have received the brunt of this blow. Nurses and doctors are frontline workers, and across the U.S., many have had to take on more hours despite pay cuts. Like everyone else, the personal lives of medical employees have also become complicated by the virus.
What Can Clinic Owners and Supervisors Do?
As the owner or manager of a clinic or practice, you may feel a bit helpless in this situation. However, there are a few things you can do to prepare and support your clinic and improve your workplace environment and efficiency while the virus runs its course:
1. Update Your Internal Systems
The influx of new patients and the increased popularity of telehealth services has likely put stress on administrative employees. However, implementing new healthcare management software or training employees to use this technology properly can significantly lighten the load. Advanced software can help organize patient files, bills, invoice records, tax documentation, and more.
2. Help Staff Embrace Telehealth Technology
For many clinics and private practices, the coronavirus epidemic has forced staff to understand and implement telehealth technology quickly. For many patients, virtual visits are the only way to interact with their doctors during the pandemic safely.
To provide high-quality care, clinic managers need to learn all the ins and outs of their telehealth software. Holding numerous tech training sessions allows managers to ensure that their staff is comfortable using all the necessary hardware and software.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthcare tech companies that offer not only telehealth software and hardware but also consulting. For example, by investing in NextGen HER technology during the coronavirus outbreak, medical providers will gain access to consultants who can give specific insights for dealing with the crisis.
3. Have a Protocol for Employee Illness
Healthcare workers, like the rest of the population, are susceptible to the coronavirus. Due to the rampant spread of the virus, a few employees will likely catch it as well.
Even if none of your employees show signs of illness, you should take every precaution necessary and have a backup plan should some staff members miss weeks of work. Be prepared to have staff members tested for the virus and to provide them with the necessary support.
4. Foster Supportive Coworker Relationships
As previously mentioned, COVID-19 has psychologically impacted healthcare workers and can significantly lower morale. To keep your facility in good spirits despite the heartbreaking crisis, try to foster support between employees. For example, take the time to celebrate your employees with a communal breakfast or lunch. When it comes to boosting morale, a little bit of effort from an employer can go a long way.
Acting on Uncertainty
While no one knows how long the COVID-19 crises will last or what long-term effects it will have on the economy and healthcare industry, that doesn’t mean you should become apathetic. Instead, focus on what you can control and what actions you can take to improve circumstances for your patients and employees.