How to Encourage More Visits and Manage Overflow in Healthcare Facilities

By Derek Jones, VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas, Deputy
Twitter: @deputyapp

According to the American Hospital Association, America’s hospitals and healthcare systems experienced an average loss of $50.7 billion per month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, that is how bad the situation has been over the past two years.

However, telehealth proved to be the savior of the health industry.

Why Patients Stopped Visiting Healthcare Facilities

Many countries had to reassign health staff and postpone or discontinue their services, such as treatments for hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, among others. That had to happen so that they could deal with the COVID-19 victims who desperately needed treatment, since most government resources were stretched to the limit.

Also, patients became more afraid of going to healthcare facilities because they did not want to risk getting infected by the virus as the numbers of COVID-19 victims continued to rise despite the fact that some of them needed treatment for other issues.

Getting back to how things used to be has been challenging for both patients and healthcare facilities, especially since many have adapted to the new normal.

4 Changes That Healthcare Facilities Can Implement

Despite the new normal, healthcare facilities can still encourage more visits and even manage an overflow should it occur. However, due to the unique circumstances the world finds itself in, they must adapt to the changes that patients are making in how they opt to receive care.

Below are some changes that healthcare practices can implement to bring in more clients.

1. Embrace Telehealth technologies

According to one U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report, many people opted for telehealth services to access some form of healthcare during the pandemic. In particular, behavioral health patients embraced this form of medical care. It’s safe to say that this will continue to happen moving forward, since it has proven to be pretty convenient for patients.

Telehealth technology should incorporate an omnichannel approach during service delivery using the available digital and communication tools.

Remote Health Monitoring Devices
One aspect of telehealth are remote patient monitoring tools that practices can use to monitor patients from a distance, while accessing their medical data. It incorporates digital tools that enhance communication between patients and their medical service providers. It also includes wearable devices, such as smartwatches and continuous glucose and blood pressure monitors.

Medical Knowledge Bases
Studies show that businesses that prioritize blogging receive 13x more ROI than businesses that don’t. Therefore, medical practices should provide an extensive knowledge base for people via their healthcare practice websites. Doing so enables them to build trust within their target audience population who may be seeking relevant answers to their medical questions.

Real-Time Audio and Video Communication
Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are excellent for engaging patients and discussing specific topics related to the services that medical practices provide. And these conversations can take place in real-time, thus increasing the audience’s awareness of health issues, while growing health service brands.

In addition, virtual teleconferencing tools will also come in handy for one-on-one doctor-patient consultations when in-person meetings are unnecessary or impossible. Healthcare staff can use teleconferences to make initial diagnoses based on what they see or hear from the patient.

And to manage client schedules and sessions, medical practices can incorporate time-tracking software. Mobile digital devices would come in handy for traveling medical staff who have to contact the headquarters for any reason.

Store-and-forwarding Technology
Storage and forwarding of medical information, including images, is an important aspect of telehealth. It enhances communication between health service providers and enables them to share information about mutual patients. Rush University Medical Center’s Rush SmartExam is an excellent example of such technology.

For that reason, medical practices need digital devices with a capacity to transmit and store multiple forms of data concerning each patient their staff handle in the field and in-house.

Healthcare facilities can also use cloud-based collaborative platforms for teams to enable their employees to communicate with each other, and discuss their assignments when necessary. That way, they can work together better and still cover all the patients if someone fails to turn up. And they can access the information they need remotely, if necessary.

Dedicated Healthcare Apps
This is the era of mobile devices. Therefore, patients should have access to healthcare apps like Doctor on Demand, on their devices of choice. These apps, when downloaded and installed, can be instrumental in marketing and administering relevant services to existing patients through a dedicated channel.

2. Invest In Mobile Clinics

While virtual health care has become a popular option, 162 million Americans don’t have access to internet services. No matter how much money you sink into internet-enabled digital and communication telehealth technology, you cannot reach this demographic for now. Therefore, they cannot take advantage of the telehealth services you provide.

For that reason, it would be wise for healthcare facilities to consider investing in mobile clinics in the form of customized vehicles and motorcycles equipped to serve these communities. That would work well in rural areas with a severe shortage of healthcare staff. Such an option would also work well for the homeless, those living in isolation, and people with disabilities.

3. Provide Incentives for Locum Tenens

The severe shortage of healthcare workers in America is no longer breaking news. The situation is expected to become much worse in the coming decade. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how big the staff shortage problem is. The burnout and suicide rates within the healthcare industry are extraordinary.

Growing your practice means providing high-quality care all the time, while allowing employees to have a decent work-life balance. That cannot happen if your healthcare facility does not have enough employees to handle patients while enjoying regular rest periods to manage their stress levels.

Therefore, healthcare facilities need to provide incentives for locum tenens to attract more qualified medical service providers. If necessary, you should also find ways of attracting foreign healthcare workers to meet the demand for care.

By doing so, your facility will be in a much better position to cater to more patients, get rid of the backlog of medical procedures, and manage any patient overflow that occurs.

4. Improve Hospital Infrastructure

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the worn-out hospital infrastructure that exists in many hospitals across the U.S. Therefore, even if your hospital manages to attract patients, they may not have the ability to provide the required services continuously and consistently. You may end up compromising the quality of care as systems break down due to an increased pressure on them.

For those reasons, medical practices should find funds and invest in better hospital infrastructure that meets the patients’ current demands.

For example, research shows that 62 percent of people prefer urgent care facilities over ERs due to the pandemic. This is because it’s much safer, more convenient, and cheaper for them.

For that reason, your healthcare practice should invest in fully-equipped walk-in facilities to deal with medical emergencies when they arise within the community. Such a facility could also be mobile to enable medical service providers to treat the hard-to-reach communities that live farther away or in isolation.

Due to the lower costs of urgent care facilities, healthcare practices are likely to attract more patients because many people want to pay for only the care they receive when they need it. Then, they can then manage an overflow of patients in case of major emergencies within the locale.

It is not impossible to increase the number of visits to your healthcare facility. Of course, you have to pay attention to the data that shows what patients want, and give it to them. However, you can always start with basic telehealth technology and improve it to grow your practice, depending on what your patients need. Many of the digital tools you need already exist and can integrate seamlessly with what you already have.