Doctor sitting with patient, checking patient with stethoscope
HealthSeptember 17, 2020

Reopening doctor clinics during uncertain times

How to prepare contingency plans to reduce negative impact on your patient’s health and your clinic’s business

The role of the family physician or general practitioner has been elevated during this period of crisis. With hospitals focusing all efforts on the fight against COVID-19, non-COVID-19 cases remain unattended. The GP steps in here to offer continuity of care to offer support to patients who are apprehensive about stepping out during a pandemic to seek medical help while risking a potential infection.

While the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, doctors who run their own private health practice must develop strategies that ensure their teams are safe, patients are cared for and business doesn’t suffer in these uncertain times.

Here is a checklist of problems to consider with solutions that can be personalized for your own clinic practice.

Problem: Patients are afraid to get out of their homes

Community-level misinformation can be a large obstacle when it comes to a health crisis like the one we are witnessing. WhatsApp forwards that spread false claims are a menace that even the government is trying to fight.

Consider using your position as the community health guardian to dispel rumors and fake news while encouraging safe behaviors to protect against COVID-19. It will help generate goodwill for you, remind patients that your practice is up and running and encourage them to reach out. If you are concerned about the changing mechanism of the consultation from in-person to online, clinical decision support systems like 5MinuteConsult offer assistance against differential diagnoses. They give you concise information, recommend test results and offer quick algorithms to triage.

Problem: Clinic staff feels like their health is at risk

Make the team a part of the solutioning for the clinic. It will make them feel like equal stakeholders and reduce the chances of them wanting to leave. This plan that you create with your team must include researching government-issued public safety protocols, implementation of social distancing norms within the space that your clinic offers, safety procedures and procurement of safe equipment. Think of it as an investment in safety.

Try to visualize a plan in the event that one of the team gets infected. If the plan includes health insurance and timely access to care, employees are more likely to feel protected.

Problem: Online consultations are not being monetized

If you have opted to consult with patients via telephone and video conferencing tools, you are one step ahead. In the current lockdown-like situation, doctors who have evolved to offer their consultation services via online means are at an advantage. Moreover, patients now have the option to consult with doctors across cities since digital tools ensure that geographical boundaries aren’t limiting any more.

In such a situation, you want to be approachable to patients who have been loyal to your clinic. Setting up payment gateways and appointment scheduling is easy enough thanks to apps for doctors that offer concierge services and reduce the administrative load. You will be able to monetize your consultations in no time!

Problem: Standard protocols for COVID-19 keep changing

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued the National Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control in Healthcare Facilities. As per the document, the primary strategy for minimizing the risk of transmission of microorganisms in healthcare facilities, includes precautions to be followed for all patients, irrespective of their infection status. These are to be used to avoid contact with blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions regardless of whether contaminated grossly with blood or not; non-intact skin; and mucous membrane.

The key components of standard precautions are:

  1. Hand hygiene
  2. Personal protective equipment
  3. Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  4. Prevention of injuries from sharps
  5. Safe handling of patient-care equipment
  6. Principles of asepsis
  7. Environmental infection control
    1. Patient placement
    2. Environmental cleaning
    3. Linen and laundry
    4. Waste disposal

Problem: Clinic revenues have suffered in the last few months

That is a concern that needs strategic planning to overcome. There is a transformation in the way that family medicine is being delivered by doctors and approached by patients. Patients are more aware than ever before. They are discerning and spoilt for choice.

Adopting a technology-first approach to running your clinic will help. Technologies that offer tele-video consultations, concierge services to manage schedules and payments, and clinical decision-making systems improve patient outcomes, increase patient engagement and ultimately have a positive impact on clinic revenues.

5-point recap

  1. Generate goodwill for your practice by cancelling misinformation in the community.
  2. Use technology to reduce contact, opt for tele-video consultations where possible.
  3. Protect your staff and reduce employee attrition by forming a team for standard safety protocols.
  4. Adopt a technology-first approach to run your clinic.
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