COVID-19 & Its Impact on Elective Procedures

COVID-19 & Its Impact on Elective Procedures

Introduction

One can never predict what is going to happen in the near future. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is one such phenomenon that no one would have expected to get hit by. Like a wildfire, it spread across the globe leading to an international medical emergency. 

Currently, the United States (US) is the worst-hit country ranking on top followed by India and Brazil while the United Kingdom (UK) has almost touched the 1MM figure. 

Months have passed, and everyone is still adapting and learning to deal with this pandemic. Now, this is a reality. We know that this ain’t going anywhere! At least until a vaccine is developed. And even if the vaccine is developed, it will take time to be available to everyone. Until then we need to find a way around this situation.

Find out what some medical practices have done to sustain this crisis.

Impact of COVID-19 on Elective Medical Practices 

Looking at the evolving situation, the government and healthcare governing bodies issued the guidelines for the conduct of services. The guidelines requested hospitals and medical institutions to postpone non-essential elective surgeries. For some local authorities, it was difficult to decide which services should be cut down as there was no clear cut mention of which services came under the elective and non-essential category. 

This entire situation led to a challenge for elective health practitioners to replenish the whole healthcare value chain. They were left with the feeling of worklessness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

The lockdown has lifted and the elective healthcare practices have resumed their services. This time the challenge is even bigger as the services need to be resumed with extra precautions, following a new set of working protocols and operation management, to prevent any infections resulting from contact. 

Medical institutions are using PPEs to protect the healthcare staff and patients. Practitioners are also asking their patients to fill out online patient forms and corona surveys before visiting the facility.

The delivery of elective health services has changed from every aspect due to COVID-19 and is slowly recovering economically as well.   

Impact of COVID-19 on Patients

The pandemic has affected the patients’ peace of mind. Fear of transmission of the coronavirus prevented patients from visiting their doctors. Many people canceled their appointments.

However, post lockdown, the doctors are taking care of the facility by strictly following the precaution standards. Now people have started to accept the new normal. They are visiting their doctors to continue postponed treatments.

In several places, the doctors are asking the patients to wait their turn in the parking lot to limit the number of people inside the facility. Several other measures are being carried out to prevent the transmission and people are following these diligently. 

Virtual Consultations – The Savior

Patients are more open to opt for virtual consultations as it is a safer option rather than getting consultations in person.

According to a research report by Accenture, around 60% of patients want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their condition.  41% of patients used video conferencing to communicate with their healthcare providers about treatment – for many of them, this was their first time using video calls for healthcare (70%).

Elective healthcare practices are using video conferencing to conduct routine surveillance encounters, consultations, and follow-up with patients. 

Let us look at Aesthetics Medispa, Pune (India), one of our clients, and how they are using virtual consultations for their practice. They were totally into in-clinic consultations before. Later they switched to virtual consultations looking at the COVID-19 scenario. The patients really liked this simplified digital experience and started opting for it. This change in the mindset of patients resulted in tremendous success for our client, and now they are using both in-clinic and virtual consultations for their practice.

Next Steps for a Medical Practitioner

Looking at the scenario, we all know that this COVID-19 pandemic is not going anywhere, probably for the next year. What can you do to recover your practice economically and sustain the interest in the market?

What can you do to sustain your practice?

Adapt to the changes that have taken place in the overall practice operations and leverage technological advancements.

1.Re-evaluate where you fit in the Practice Life Cycle

Things could have changed for your practice. If yours is a multi-clinic, you need to think about whether you want to continue running all those clinics or close one down.

A hair loss clinic may not get surgeries any time soon for a hair transplant. Therefore you need to focus more on minimally invasive things like PRP or Vitamin Therapy or Intravenous Therapy (IV).

Our client, who is a plastic surgeon, decided to focus just on very advanced aesthetic surgeries and IV, cellular, wellness kind of therapies.

So this is the time to go back and reevaluate where you fit in the business cycle and adjust your business model for this particular scenario.

2. Revisit your Marketing Objectives, Primary KPI, and Metrics

Since your business model is going to change, it will affect your revenue and cost structure among other things. Revisit your marketing objectives to incorporate these changes. Also, revisit your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and the metrics that you are currently using to measure your practice performance. 

3. Start using Telehealth

The focus should be high on limiting in-clinic consulting and embracing virtual consulting. You can successfully carry out consultations virtually and provide a simplified digital experience to the patients.

Telehealth allows you to talk to your patients in real-time with online video consultations from your smartphone (or any device) and from anywhere. The virtual consultation is conducted in a dedicated personal meeting room just for you. This platform is 100% secure and confidential. Collect payments online and share notes or patient information. Patients can see your availability on the calendar in real-time and book appointments from your website. Rescheduling or Cancellations are as easy as a click of a link. You can see and manage your appointment schedule anywhere on your mobile phone. 

Telehealth allows a win-win situation for the patients as well as for the medical practitioners who want to reduce the chances of getting affected by the COVID-19 as everything happens in real-time seamlessly. 

Start using virtual consultations and connect with your patients to provide a care experience despite geographical differences. This will ultimately bring efficiency and maximize the productivity of your practice.

4. Invest in building your marketing assets

You need to build your marketing assets such as your website, social media pages, YouTube channel, and your patient list or email list.

Nowadays patients look up information on the internet before they consult a doctor. Engage with your patients and share information via webinars, or other useful media. Choose value media that gives you the best return for your investment.

Our other client, The Hair Loss Clinic (USA), started conducting webinars right from April and is continuing to do so to date. They host these webinars every Thursday, giving information about hair care, tips to resolve hair problems, what products to use, what shampoo to avoid, etc. on an everyday basis. This has turned out to be a good strategy for lead generation.

5. Run Ads

During the lockdown, the ad rates dropped drastically as almost every medical practice was on hold. But some practices arched from this situation by targeting their patients to promote their services. 

One such example is of our client, Dr. Santosh Bhatia, Director of Vanity Cosmetic Clinic, Mumbai (India). He could not perform procedures during the lockdown. So he started virtual consultations to serve his patients’ needs and build trust in the relationship. 

He also ran Google and Facebook ad campaigns. This resulted in a good outcome as he continued to generate interest in the market. Now that the clinic has reopened, he is still conducting virtual consultations. 

Running ads not only helps to build your presence online but also helps you to give updates about your practice to the patients.  

Conclusion

This pandemic has left us on tough ground where everyone is surrounded by uncertainty and stress. But things will get better, and we will win this battle. The vaccine will soon be available to everyone, and everything will start to normalize. 

Resuming your practice at this stage may seem hard. However, it is a good time to plan for long-term growth and sustainability.

Patients are increasingly showing more consumer-like behavior and healthcare needs to modernize to provide them with the best customer experience they deserve. And this is why you need to think about the patient-first approach! 

Your healthcare practices can assure long-term sustained growth, in this ever-evolving digital world, only if you embrace cutting-edge digital technologies across all its processes such as patient acquisition, patient engagement, patient communications, and front desk operations.

We understand the challenges that are ahead of you. You can reach out to Mktg.Doctor if you would like us to help you in your journey.

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