Critical caseload considerations to post-COVID recovery
Operating costs are high, and surgical service revenue is down. The Strategy Team at Ten Adams has reviewed articles and interviewed hospital leadership, and compiled the following tips for getting back to business. Whether your team is considering a slow start to services, or resuming at full (or increased) capacity, here are some things to keep in mind while maintaining your commitment to provide safe, high quality care to patients during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
OR Capacity: Even with patients and staff at the ready, if the operating rooms cannot accommodate this wave of surgeries, then revenue recovery will hit a major bottleneck due to physical space limitations.Work internally to ensure ORs can be operational and ready and expand capacity if possible with longer days, additional days (weekends) or opening up previously retired suites.
Testing Availability: Restarting procedures will rely heavily on the availability of rapid COVID-19 test kits. Clearing patients on the day of their procedures to ensure the safety of your staff and communities will help rebuild trust and show good stewardship of PPE inventory. Keep a watchful eye on other potential supply chain limitations that may delay a smooth restart to elective procedures.
Anesthesia: Ensuring complete anesthesia coverage is critical to an efficient OR, and a good first step to building teams. Include anesthesia early in the conversation to make the most of surgical and nursing assignments, and make sure all parties are in place prior to a restart. That collaboration will help prioritize cancelled surgeries, designate equitable block time and avoid schedule conflicts.
Surgeons: Surgeons will likely be eager to get back into the OR, so understanding each surgeon’s anticipated volume, procedure mix and plans to triage urgent cases will be important. If your OR decides to open additional blocks, even using two rooms at once, the surgeon’s scheduling team should be kept up to date on all capacity changes so they can notify patients.
Nursing: Be open to conversations with nursing staff. While many will be eager to resume regular operations, some may have been temporarily assigned to COVID-19 units and may need extra time to recover. One-on-one conversations will help leadership know who is willing to cover extra shifts to make up lost income and assist with patient backlog, or those that need time and flexibility to return to normal caseload.
Communication: Communicate peace of mind to your patients, letting them know it’s safe to return to the hospital and the organization has measures in place to prevent risk of induction or complications. And be uniform in messaging. Now is the time to align communication to reassure patients, so work with surgeons, surgery centers, physical therapy, etc., to make sure directions are clear and consistent. Speak with one reassuring voice to rebuild confidence.
Expectations: Explaining what to expect throughout a surgical process if important in normal times. Now more than ever, patients need to know what they can expect to see, hear and experience when they arrive at the hospital for their procedure. Let patients know if they need to wear a mask, what is the check-in process like, if they can bring a support person along, and what visitor restrictions are in place. Eliminating as many uncertainties and questions in advance will help patients feel prepared and calm some pre-op jitters.
Scheduling: Patients are likely frustrated by the change in plans regarding their surgeries. Stay in touch with updates regarding the organization’s plans and how that will impact their care path. Keep pre-admissions moving, and up to date, and explain why they may need to redo labs or clearance to ensure they’re health for surgery.
Financial Understanding: Just as your organization prepares to launch into revenue recovery mode, remember that your patients have been through a financial crisis, too. Consider additional flexibility, financial planning and payment arrangements as patients navigate job changes and loss of benefits.
For full CMS guidelines regarding reopening elective produces, read the official recommendations here.
Looking to restart elective procedures and want a fool-proof patient communication campaign?
The Ten Adams crew is ready to help. Contact Jennifer Horton, VP Strategy, to get back to business with confidence.