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Alleviating financial burden due to COVID crisis

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The decline in patient visits, reduction in profitable elective surgeries and increase in less profitable medical procedures have adversely affected the revenue inflow for healthcare organisations, explains Sunil Raheja, Chief Operations Officer, IKS Health

The COVID situation has burdened many businesses, amongst which large and small healthcare organisations are included. Despite medical services being the centre of activity for the fight against COVID, many factors have impacted the routine revenue-generating footfalls within the healthcare establishments. The decline in patient visits, reduction in profitable elective surgeries and increase in less profitable medical procedures have adversely affected the revenue inflow. This article explores some aspects in the aftermath of COVID, where healthcare organisations can look to alleviate the financial burden.

Variable cost and cost-optimised infrastructure

One of the key elements for optimising the cost for healthcare organisations could be inspecting the operating model and making fundamental changes to it that reduces fixed costs. This can be looked at from both people’s roles and impact point perspective. One can look at realignment of tasks across the clinical and administrative workflows so everyone operates at the top of their license keeping in view that if the task doesn’t have to be done by a physician, then it shouldn’t and if it doesn’t have to be done in person, then it shouldn’t. Many tasks today can be outsourced to specialist organisations that would save healthcare organisations fixed costs, improve efficiency, and mitigate errors with high-quality clinical documentation, eventually adding up to improved cost margins. These tasks can range from repetitive administrative tasks of documentation management, technology partners for digitisation and automation using cloud-based solutions, to enhanced care coordination and patient management systems.

Focus on care delivery, physician satisfaction and patient safety

Since the beginning of the pandemic, hospitals and health systems have suffered huge financial losses due to declining numbers of elective procedures and OPT visits. Despite this, physicians have experienced burnout during this time, which has resulted in lower efficiency and higher error rates; therefore, adversely impacting patient safety.

Research suggests that for every one per cent increase in physician engagement by healthcare systems, the patient satisfaction rating goes up by .33 per cent, clearly indicating that physician satisfaction plays an undeniable role in improving the quality of care and therefore improving patient safety, revisits, recommendations and improved financial performance. There are many measures that can be undertaken to create a larger level of physician satisfaction, one of which is returning them to the primacy of their role – direct patient care.

Create a differentiated physician and patient experience 

Research indicates that physician and patient experience surveys directly impact the quality of care delivered. Emerging technologies and innovations in existing healthcare technologies have the capacity to transform the physician and patient experience. With a wide range of options available today, healthcare organisations can create extraordinary interactive experiences for both from the very first touch point. For example, communication devices and electronic patient feedback systems that alert staff in real time, patient information systems that can answer all FAQs pre-visit, enabling physicians to access patient information at the click of a button saving them crucial time, delivering a complete patient lifecycle on the palm of your hand, and so on and so forth. While these technologies can be an added integration to the existing workflow, there is evidence that healthcare organisations can look at the improved bottom line through the adoption. Once put into effect, creating a differentiated experience would create massive growth and scalability opportunities for businesses therefore impacting revenues.

Drive population health outcomes with rich data and analytics

Technology can be our answer to many of the challenges faced in today’s world. Big data is here to revolutionise healthcare. As we move towards optimising costs and improving the quality of care for the patients, we are looking at the colossal task of collecting, storing and analysing this data. While all of this is possible with the right tools, platforms and partners, healthcare organisations would also be able to drive population health, not restricted by geographies, with the right utilisation of data. Today, technology can build capabilities where systems can speak with each other (interoperability), giving access to patient’s historical data, pre-emptive analysis for disease identification, care management, medicine acceptability and improved efficiency. This could allow healthcare organisations to cater to more patients, improving their reputation, and allowing them vertical expansion.

Healthcare organisations should focus on increasing accountability, productivity and improving patient experience; synchronously by reducing financial burden on fixed operating and administrative costs for the organisations. This can be achieved through integrating solutions that include creating optimised processes, robust monitoring, detailed strategy and operational reviews, and leveraging technology and automation to drive optimal outcomes. Healthcare organisations need to look at realigning care delivery such that it transitions to the lowest cost and the highest impact setting.

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