Healthcare Communications Post-COVID

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Regional Hospitals: Post COVID-19

Intermountain Healthcare's Cassia Regional Hospital is explaining to patients what they should expect so that they are comfortable with the process of returning for non-essential treatment post COVID-19. Tenet Healthcare's Baptist Health System has a set of COVID-19 safety standards to give patients and their loved ones peace of mind as they resume several procedures. Case studies illustrating how these regional hospitals are encouraging patients to return for non-essential treatment post-COVID-19 have been provided below.

Intermountain Healthcare's Cassia Regional Hospital

  • Intermountain Healthcare's Cassia Regional Hospital reopened their elective procedures on May 11. According to the hospital's administrator, Ben Smalley, the more that they explain to patients "what they should expect, the more comfortable they are with the process." On Intermountain Healthcare's website, they say that "With your continued support, we’ll work toward recovery and stabilization while sustaining preparedness efforts around all possible scenarios."
  • On the hospital's website, specifically the COVID-19 page, they state that they are "looking at everything they do through the lens of keeping their caregivers, patients and members, and communities as healthy and safe as possible." On their Facebook page as well as their COVID-19 resources page on the website, Intermountain Healthcare has shared guidance for patients regarding moving to the 'yellow phase', whereby limited services are provided. Patients who are at normal risk for COVID-19 illness, have no symptoms and are not positive, will be able to access these services either in person or virtually as appropriate; whereas patients who have tested positive or those who are high risk will not be able to access the services unless they are urgently required.
  • The hospital has new policies in place, including mask-wearing requirements, testing patients for COVID-19 before procedures and taking temperature on arrival. They want patients to come back to the hospital for elective procedures, blood work and mammograms. Their new protocols stress the need to continue testing for COVID-19, especially among their staff.

Tenet Healthcare's Baptist Health System

  • Tenet Healthcare's Baptist Health System has reopened elective procedures in its hospitals across San Antonio. They have a set of COVID-19 safety standards that they expect will "offer peace of mind to patients and their loved ones receiving elective surgery or emergency care."
  • Their new protocols include spacing out their waiting areas with clear signage to promote social distancing, screening visitors, providing face masks, and requiring that patients get tested for COVID-19 before their procedures. They also stress the need for testing for COVID-19, especially among their staff.
  • Their overall messaging provides patients with reassurance around any concerns they may have regarding returning to hospitals for non-essential treatment. On their website they state, "We’re here for you, your family and our community." They also state that their SAFE standards are "built upon deep clinical expertise from previous crises and ongoing management of COVID-19, as well as continuous incorporation of CDC, CMS and State recommendations," and that "they are a rigorous combination of infection prevention processes, training, testing, personal protective equipment and technology."
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Healthcare Industry Outlook

CNBC reports that it could take hospitals 12 to 18 months to recover their normal operating margins after COVID-19. While there could be pent-up demand for non-essential procedures after COVID-19, patients may still be apprehensive about returning to hospitals and physician offices. An outlook for the US healthcare industry has been provided below.

Predictions on Finances/ Revenue

  • In the midst of COVID-19, hospitals in the U.S. lose millions of dollars daily and according to CNBC, it could take 12 to 18 months to recover the 1% to 2% operating margin that the average not-for-profit hospital system was running at. Furthermore, it could take three to four years to make up the revenue that has been lost due to the pandemic.
  • Advisory Board estimates that over the next few months, a single COVID-19 admission will generate $15,000 in revenue for hospitals. Moreover, COVID-19 cases are expected to cover variable expenses and produce a positive contribution margin. However, this margin may be eroded by COVID-19-related expenses.
  • According to Managed Healthcare Executive, hospitals can be grouped into three categories financially: those that are extremely damaged with limited strategic options for the future; those that are fairly damaged and will have to do a lot of work; and those that are relatively intact. Small hospitals or systems will likely be in the extremely damaged group, and some will need to look for partners to survive.
  • More consolidation is predicted to occur in the US healthcare industry due to the financial challenges brought about by COVID-19. In the past, internal political barriers slowed down consolidation, but these are expected to be broken down as a result of the pandemic.
  • Over the coming months, health system finances are expected to be continually eroded by the economic fallout from the prolonged national shutdown in a variety of ways. Due to the loss of jobs, patients will be shifted from coverage sponsored by their employers to self-pay, insurance exchanges or Medicaid, leading to lower average revenue per case. Employers may also cut back and provide less generous benefits due to the economic downturn, leading to decreased revenue.
  • Healthcare systems that depend heavily on non-operating revenues to sustain their margins face a lot of uncertainty. Philanthropic donations are currently a strong source of this non-operating revenue, but it is not clear whether this generosity will continue after the peak of the pandemic and through the economic challenges that are bound to follow.
  • Medicare's advanced payment program as well as funding from the CARES act and PPP have been responsible for preventing cash flow crises among healthcare systems after the shutdown of essential procedures. However, there is uncertainty on whether the government will continue to extend this support to hospitals as they also have to deal with the needs of several other disrupted sectors.

Predictions on Patient Return for Non-essential Procedures

  • According to Willis Towers Watson, there could be pent-up demand for non-essential procedures as the U.S. reopens in stages. On the other hand, patients may be apprehensive about returning to hospitals and physician offices, and this may temper the utilization of these non-essential services.
  • Deloitte reports that over 80% of patients expect to see their patient visits rescheduled after COVID-19.
  • Shane Giuliani and Urvi Shah from Deloitte Consulting stated that it is likely that many consumers will not revert to the preferences they had before COVID-19, and it is important that healthcare organizations prepare for the future by "building trust and gaining long-term loyalty."
  • As the use of telehealth has grown exponentially during the pandemic, it is estimated that about 50% of physician interactions will still be virtual despite the reopening of physician practices. Moreover, many services are expected to move from inpatient and outpatient settings to patients' homes, including physical therapy, infusion, hospital-level medical management, rehab and remote monitoring.

Predictions around Messaging

  • According to PR Week, there is expected to be more communication around health-related advice in the short-term. More than ever before, consumers are looking for reliable information about their health. In addition, after the shutdown of non-essential services at hospitals, telehealth is becoming an increasingly significant trend, whereby healthcare information and services are disseminated through digital platforms.
  • The role of community pharmacists, patient advocacy groups, online providers, and podcasts giving healthcare information and advice will continue to increase as people decide to be more responsible for their health.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

Patient Perceptions of Healthcare

Many American adults are eager to schedule medical appointments, with 80% planning to reschedule or schedule procedures in the coming 6 months. 50% of Americans are confident that their primary doctors can manage their health and well-being in the future, based on how they handled COVID-19. Consumer and patient perceptions of healthcare in a post-COVID-19 world have been provided below.

Consumer/ Patient Perceptions of Healthcare in a Post-COVID-19 World

  • According to Klein & Partners and The DRG, Americans have polarized emotions about the future. They are both anxious and hopeful.
  • In a survey carried out by Sapphire Digital, it was revealed that 47% of American adults will have more concerns about their healthcare after COVID-19 than they did before. They will be more selective when it comes to the procedures they get, the cost of procedures and where they go for procedures. Their preference will be for more accessible, higher quality and lower cost care options.
  • Many American adults are eager to schedule medical appointments, following the imminent reopening of elective healthcare procedures. Among the 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 64 surveyed by Sapphire Digital, 80% plan to reschedule or schedule procedures in the coming 6 months. However, many of those with canceled elective procedures are still considering when and if to reschedule them, according to a study by Klein & Partners and The DRG.
  • After COVID-19, the biggest factors that could build consumer confidence in a doctor include caring for patients' "heightened emotions when seeking care" and providing them with alternatives to receiving care, such as virtual visits. The biggest confidence building factors for hospitals is keeping people informed.
  • When it comes to patient perceptions towards their current providers, insurers or doctors, 50% of Americans are confident that their primary doctors can manage their health and well-being in the future based on how they handled COVID-19; 30% are confident in the future management of their health and well-being by their health insurers; and 24% are positive about their providers being able to handle the influx of new patients.
  • According to a study by Klein & Partners and The DRG, there is expected to be a strong demand for new healthcare access tools and services including hospital apps, virtual mental health sessions and virtual visits. The survey by Sapphire Digital also revealed that over 80% of American adults would perceive both live, personalized customer support and an online healthcare navigation tool to be helpful to them in identifying the best provider for their financial and health needs.
  • The figure below shows healthcare behaviors that consumers will definitely exhibit after the pandemic.


Sources
Sources