The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the entire world beyond any benchmarks that anyone could possibly reference. Simply put, there is no one … not a single person on the planet … that can draw from historical events and apply such experiences as to the best way to react and minimize any negative impact. That perspective applies to every socio-economic conversation around the world, and particularly critical as to the appropriate management of healthcare during this crisis.
Healthcare providers have recommended delaying elective procedures and even routine office visits, as vital nursing and healthcare resources are appropriately focused on caring for infected patients, accelerating the discovery of a cure and possible vaccines, and minimizing further exposure to this aggressive virus. And those efforts among many appear to be working, albeit slowly and at times unpredictably. Still, there will be a day in the near future when hospitals and physician practices “re-open for business” and patients will resume with plans for needed procedures and office visits.
However, that return to “normalcy” will be far from normal. The backlog of activity combined with the predicted normal regular demand will continue to put a strain on both hospital systems and physician practices. First, there is a fixed supply of hospitals and practices, meaning that there is a very finite number of patients and procedures that can be accommodated in a specific timeframe. Second, with an even higher focus on patient and caregiver safety, it is reasonable to expect that process efficiency will be impacted as systems, caregivers and even patients adjust to new protocols. And overarching to all of this is the best allocation of valuable nursing resources to help current patients and not be distracted from administrative duties.
In fact, as hospitals re-open, the best use of a nurse’s time can possibly prove to be the most challenging consideration of all. An effective patient management process includes timely follow-up after discharge. Numerous studies have shown the direct impact of a robust patient follow-up program that reduces and eliminates readmissions. Prior to the current crisis, hospitals often used valuable nursing resources to conduct such follow-up, which took time and energy from caring for current patients. Now, with the prospect of returning to “normal” over time in the near future, hospitals will be challenged as to how they best meet the likely high demand, while also completing follow-up to ensure that the needs of discharged patients are addressed in a timely manner to avoid potential issues and possible readmissions, which will only put a further strain on what may be an over-burdened system for the foreseeable future.
Such a scenario is not only possible … it is actually very likely. A clear path to addressing this challenge is to partner with firms that focus on patient communications. At PREMEDEX, that’s what we do. We help hospitals, physicians and many other healthcare professionals connect with patients every day to address individual needs while also alerting caregivers to a potential issue. The PREMEDEX team of clinical and non-clinical representatives connect with thousands of patients every day on behalf of our client partner hospitals and physicians. And the PREMEDEX Telehealth solutions enable all types of medical professionals to connect with patients through virtual visits.
Re-opening our healthcare system will present some unique challenges. But it will happen … needs to happen … and it will be sooner than we expect. Hospitals and physicians will be ready, but “normal” is going to be different than even six months ago. One of the best ways for systems and physicians alike to address demand and ensure continued quality patient care is to embrace new methods. That can start with PREMEDEX.