Running at Recovery: Incorporating patient and clinician needs in your health system’s post-pandemic plan

With widespread vaccination a conceivable near-term possibility, we can finally begin to look beyond the focus on the day-to-day and plan with a longer horizon in mind. This desire, and frankly need, to broaden our timeframe for planning, holds true for individuals as well as corporate entities – and health systems are no exception. The toll on health systems has been drastic, with the AHA estimating a minimum loss to the nation’s hospitals and health systems of $323B in 2020. With such a significant financial blow, the need to embrace this current opportunity to strategically plan and pivot cannot be overstated. While health systems have countless parallel efforts to undertake, focusing on understanding and then meeting consumers and patients where they currently are, as well as incorporating clinician concerns – as they too emerge from varied degrees of lockdown – creates inroads for making a difference quickly.

What your patient community needs from you:

As a matter of necessity at first, and later confounded by fear, finances, and immobility, many patients have been delaying much-needed care. This has created both pent up demand ready to be unleashed with greater vaccination rates and often greater complexity of disease that has developed due to prolonged absence of active management. Creating visibility to available access at your organization through patient outreach with targeted marketing campaigns, investing in increasing the SEO of clinician profiles, and intentionally focusing your efforts on those service lines most able to address patients’ delayed clinical needs must begin now. Highlighting the service lines able to meet the rising consumer need for re-engagement around chronic disease management, as well as service lines with more lucrative reimbursement, can help speed the time to health system economic recovery.

What your clinical community needs from you:

In order for your efforts to re-engage patients to land successfully, you will need to coordinate your efforts with the clinicians who will bear the responsibility of seeing those patients. Ensure there is a plan to have adequate availability that matches the demand you are trying to surface. The service lines you target for reactivation and growth need to partner and align with the outreach and visibility activities, as patients you attempt to bring back to the system will feel any disconnects here.

What both your patient and clinical communities have come to expect through the pandemic:

There are certain phenomena that we have not only adapted to, but also come to see as advantages in how we access and deliver care during the pandemic, which health systems will need to maintain post-pandemic. The first of these is online scheduling. There is no better example of establishing the expectation of this convenience than how millions of people booked vaccination appointments. Even before this, research showed patients increasingly seek the ability to book appointments online with over 50% of millennials and Gen Xers now preferring to book this way. Continuing this investment in online scheduling will reap dividends in a post-pandemic recovery plan. Likewise, the phenomenon of virtual care is here to stay. Both clinicians and patients have come to appreciate this option, and while born of necessity, it is now seen as a valid and viable option. In fact, among people who had virtual visits in 2020, 72% said it was their first-ever experience with virtual care and 74% would like this to be a standard part of their care moving forward. Virtual care is an investment that will require coordination with your clinical leadership however to ensure longer-term offerings are judiciously deployed and clinically resonant.

The journey to post-pandemic will be a challenging one, but coordinating your efforts with both patients and clinicians in mind will open the way to creative solutions that stand to be well-received by both stakeholder groups.

Photo: Nuthawut Somsuk, Getty Images