Meeting the Needs of the Next “Normal”

5 min read

A reflection on the COVID crisis as a learning experience

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in these uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic has us living day to day, studying infection charts, hot spots, and most painfully, death counts. The nature of the disease has had us focusing almost exclusively on the present – what can we do to contain and defeat the disease while protecting ourselves and our loved ones.

For healthcare organizations, that emphasis on the “now” has meant putting on hold anything that doesn’t directly impact fighting the outbreak. As the country, and healthcare services, slowly reopen, it’s time to change our perspective from the urgent present to the important future.

Patient access is patient outreach

One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 has been the lack of access for patients who need care but are not infected with the coronavirus. According to a survey of patients with cancer, more than half reported that the pandemic has had some impact on their care. Of those, nearly one in four reported a delay in care or treatment due to lack of in-person provider appointments, delayed access to imaging services, and lack of access to supportive services. According to another study, 36% of patients with eight common chronic illnesses reported issues accessing non-COVID treatment during the pandemic.

A 2021 CNN poll showed that despite the coming reopening, people are still hesitant to return to healthcare facilities for routine appointments. Only 17% of those surveyed had left their house to see a doctor as opposed to those who shopped for groceries (86%), went to work (61%), or exercised (50%). Reaching out to patients can help quell their fears and help them come in to get needed care.

Many of these non-COVID patients have simply hunkered down in their homes and remain in dire need of care. Other patients, with less urgent issues such as elective procedures, also need access to the healthcare facilities that have been cut off from them. Servicing the needs of these patients means transitioning to a mindset that providing access means proactively and methodically reaching out and providing access when and where most appropriate.  Urgently, patients need to be informed, made aware of how to seek care, and ensured that their safety is of the utmost importance to bringing them back to your care.

Healthcare’s “Amazon Moment”

The COVID-19 period represents a watershed event in healthcare where everything following it will be different. Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Jefferson Health calls this point in time “healthcare’s Amazon moment,” and believes things will never go back to the way they were. “If hospitals believe that innovation can be just this cute little thing that they do in the background but the real business is just getting heads in beds, they’re nuts,” Dr. Klasko was quoted as saying in an article by Becker’s Hospital Review. He goes on to say that the pandemic is the “big disruption” that will propel healthcare into the “consumer revolution.”

Changes in healthcare delivery and insurance coverage have been transforming passive patients into proactive consumers for a number of years, but the changes driven by COVID-19 has accelerated the transition. One of the biggest changes involves the drive toward customization and precision messaging. Just as Netflix suggests what movie you might like and Amazon lets you know products other people are buying when you make a purchase, patients/consumers will want messages targeted specifically to their individual health needs. And they want that communication on whatever device they may be using.

A need to reevaluate your entire approach to patient outreach – people, processes, and technology – will be necessary for meeting this growing need. Rapidly responding with targeted messages to service-specific populations and considering novel ways to reach out and communicate with your patients will become the next “normal.”

For example, at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, one of our clients needed to connect with all their patients to register for their virtual visit platform to prepare them for options for care. We reached out to all patients who hadn’t registered and offered the Envera phone number to call for help. In one month, we handled nearly 2,000 calls, and more than half had their issues resolved with one call. In addition, Envera Access Agents helped patients set up their telehealth visits to ensure that most virtual appointments were kept and they had a more satisfying care experience. This targeted outreach program enabled their internal team that had previously been handling the outreach to get back to their regular jobs of helping with patient visits and managing patient care

Meeting these new patient communication demands requires innovative thinking, revised processes, and a scalable solution that can make it all happen.

Envera’s COVID Comeback Pilot

Envera’s COVID Comeback Pilot is an innovative patient access program that drives engagement on both the patient’s AND the health system’s terms that can help you recover your patients following the pandemic. The Comeback Pilot can form the foundation of your reopening efforts as you guide your patients back to your care. Whether the next surge is predicted or not, Envera’s COVID Comeback Pilot can be a flexible, scalable solution that helps you continue patient outreach, provide resources to navigate patients back to care while maintaining patient access.

In this crucial time, we make sure you don’t have to use precious resources for non-core activities. You can focus your resources supporting the direct delivery of care while we provide the “concierge” to escort patients to wherever they need to be with your brand voice, empathy, and consideration for their specific population needs.

Envera’s COVID Comeback Pilot activates patients through our full-service model that includes people, technology, and reporting at an affordable, fixed price.

COVID Comeback Pilot can benefit you in a number of ways including:

  • Improving patient retention by letting them know you are “open for business”
  • Increasing the rate and consistency of your scheduling and rescheduling efforts
  • Growing the number of patients that you can assist and schedule for virtual visits
  • Gaining valuable insight into the number of patients receiving and responding to your outreach communication

There is much to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis. The key is converting those learnings into current behavior that will lead to future success – both in financial terms and in healthcare outcomes. Implementing a state-of-the-art patient outreach program today is an essential first step to be ready for tomorrow’s changed world.

Envera can help enable you to focus on treating patients while providing you with 24/7 support – including weekends and evenings when patients may need you the most.

Getting to the next “normal” will require a surgical approach to reaching patients and providing them with critical information. Transforming the tools and resources used to get there will be the next operational challenge of this pandemic and we want to be there to help. Outreach is the new access strategy and getting it done quickly is possible.

Erinne Dyer, Head of Growth