The COVID-19 crisis has had a drastic effect on healthcare providers, severely impacting the healthcare industry's revenue and operations. The statistics below are a sample of the ramifications the healthcare industry is facing.
- In its Voice of the Industry Weekly Survey among its members, the Urgent Care Association found that urgent care volume has been down 50% - 70%.
- According to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association, nearly half of independent medical practices report they have had to furlough or lay off staff and have seen a 55% decrease in revenue since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- According to the primary care collaborative, its Quick COVID-19 Primary Care Survey indicates 20% of primary care practices are predicting closures within 4 weeks.
On top of all of this, a report from the American Hospital Association says COVID-19 could cost hospitals $202.6 billion in losses for hospitals and health systems through the end of June, despite the $175 billion given to these providers in Congress’ economic stimulus package. These losses are not only driven by the cancellation of procedures, but also the additional costs for purchasing personal protective equipment and support for front-line workers such as childcare, housing and transportation.
Planning for Recovery
The COVID-19 crisis will not last forever, and things may get back to a “new normal” sooner rather than later. Healthcare leadership needs to transition from managing all the challenges brought about by COVID-19 to outlining the strategies that will help their organizations recover and succeed financially.
In its article, “The journey back from COVID-19: A guide to economic recovery for health system CFOs,” the hfma (Healthcare Financial Management Association) states that healthcare organizations should immediately begin work on three critical steps to increase patient volume and revenue:
- Developing a 90-day plan to aggressively restore revenue
- Building new capabilities and alternate payment models to unlock new healthcare industry revenue sources
- Ensuring aggressive supply chain management to mitigate risk of recovery
Telehealth, digital apps and other remote or virtual care resources have been given a major boost by the pandemic, and represent indispensable capabilities going forward. As the hfma recommends:
“Providers and payers should collaborate in developing an economic model that can sustain — and even accelerate — the adoption of telehealth and digital care channels, now that both consumers and providers have seen the value of these modalities.”
Close to half of doctors are now using telehealth to treat patients, up from only 18% two years ago, according to The Physician Foundation’s “2018 Survey of America’s Physicians.”
In its Voice of the Industry Weekly Survey, the Urgent Care Association found that 72% of its members now offer telemedicine, and of those, 76% added telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis, underscoring urgent care’s remarkable agility on short notice.
In a bit of good news, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) agreed to pay for virtual visits at the same rate as in-person visits while the coronavirus remains in effect. CMS also said it would boost the payment rate for telephone visits to match those for similar office and outpatient care, from about $14 - $41 to about $46 - $110.
Challenges with Telehealth
While the opportunities with telehealth seem extensive going forward, there are challenges facing healthcare organizations looking to capitalize on this alternative care channel. The Physician Foundation’s survey reports that 65% of clinicians have patients who can’t use virtual health (no computer/internet). Also, nearly half of telemedicine is conducted by phone while only a third of visits rely on video and only 19% involve a patient portal.
While not a challenge to telehealth but certainly a challenge to healthcare providers seeking to bolster their practice with telehealth, CVS Health is seeing a major lift. CEO Larry Merlo reports that the utilization of telehealth and virtual visits through its MinuteClinic locations was up 600% compared to the first quarter of 2019. When retail giants like CVS Health, Walmart and Amazon, with their seemingly endless resources, get into this form of care delivery, it represents a significant threat to traditional healthcare organizations with limited resources and revenue issues.
How can a healthcare organization hope to compete with companies who are already investing significant resources into telehealth? “Build it and they will come” is naïve at best.
In what might be akin to “fighting fire with fire,” a healthcare organization can use the same methods that make the world’s leading companies successful, employing Consumer Science to influence healthcare consumer decisions and behaviors. Psychographic Segmentation is a type of Consumer Science that has been used for decades by Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Walgreens and even CVS Health to grow market share and catalyze use of products and services like telehealth.
Psychographics pertain to people’s attitudes, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities, and are key to their motivations, priorities and communication preferences. Segmentation involves grouping people according to these shared characteristics for more effective targeting and engagement.
PatientBond developed and operationalized a proprietary psychographic segmentation model that it uses to personalize healthcare consumer engagement according to an individual’s motivations. This model was led by healthcare consumer experts from Procter & Gamble who also worked with the retailers named above to employ and hone their own psychographic models.
PatientBond identified five distinct psychographic segments based on their approaches to health, wellness and healthcare services, each of which requires a unique engagement strategy.
PatientBond studied healthcare consumers’ use of telehealth and other technologies and found significant differences among the psychographic segments. Two segments represented 70% of all telehealth use over the last 12 months. Working with a major managed Medicaid Insurer in a telehealth registration and utilization drive during this COVID-19 crisis, the same two segments were responsible for more than 80% of all participation.
This would indicate that success with telehealth rests on identifying and effectively engaging two of the five segments in a population. PatientBond can help its clients (hospitals, health systems, physician practices, urgent care centers, etc.) target current patients in their own practice or prospective patients in the community for new patient acquisition. In addition to capturing telehealth use (and market share) among the top two segments, PatientBond can also motivate an increase in telehealth use among the remaining three segments.
PatientBond is a Digital Health Platform that offers providers secure virtual/video consults and two-way text messaging, but also remote monitoring, digital care pathways and follow-up, marketing services and patient responsibility payment collections, among many other services involving remote patient engagement.
Healthcare organizations can offer telehealth and digital patient engagement services that drive higher utilization and significantly increase patient volume and healthcare industry revenue. Just in time for the end of the COVID-19 crisis.