Insights From Our Editors

Recovering Revenue Lost During the Shutdown: Managing the Patient Backlog

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

June 10, 2020

The COVID-19 shutdown resulted in significant revenue loss. Here are ways to rebuild those revenues in the remainder of the year by efficiently managing hours of operation and the scheduling of patients.

Now that the overwhelming majority of practices have been opened long enough to have worked out the bugs in the reopening process, the next big issue to resolve is how to manage the backlog of patients whose appointments were canceled during the months of the pandemic.

There are three basic strategies being employed (or combinations of these three strategies): business as usual, increased hours or more patients per hour.

Strategy Number One: Business As Usual
In this strategy, the practice is really not making any changes beyond those made to accommodate the “new normal.” The schedule is what the schedule is and we’ll just have to work with it. The thinking is that eventually all of those patients will be seen over time. The operative words there are “over time.” Rather than getting those patients seen within the next 30 to 60 days, it may take a year to catch up. The risk with this strategy is that some patients may seek care elsewhere because they do not want to wait.

Strategy Number Two: Increased Hours
In this strategy, the practice is adding additional hours to the daily schedule. If the practice would normally see eight hours’ worth of patients, under this new system the practice’s doctors are now seeing 10 hours’ worth of patients. This requires a reworking of staff schedules. The ideal situation would be to add the additional hours to part-time staff so that full-time staff does not go into overtime. The risk with this strategy is that the doctors experience burnout.

Strategy Number Three: More Patients per Hour
In this strategy, the practice adds at least one more patient per hour to the schedule. The key to making this happen is to have the patient spend less time with the doctor. Rather than just do a shorter exam, doctors will need to delegate to staff more testing so that patients still get the same high-quality exam, just distributed differently between doctors and staff. The risk with this strategy is that doctors and staff have to learn a new system with a new flow. Since people are creatures of habit, it requires constant attention to stay on schedule and not get behind.

Whatever strategy you are taking in your practice needs to be thought through, planned well and implemented effectively. Take this week to make sure you have the most effective strategy in place for your practice.

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