As COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve, healthcare business owners across the country must simultaneously juggle the immediate health needs of their families and employees with painful decisions about reducing operating costs in an environment with meaningfully lower demand. However, some of the most successful healthcare executives are also recognizing the unique transformational period we are entering and deploying critical strategies to position their companies for success for when we will emerge from the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Over the past few days, the senior members of Intrepid’s Healthcare Group have polled many business owners in autism, dental, diagnostics, emergency medicine, revenue cycle, specialty surgery, urgent care, and more, and the following are some of the swift and innovative actions they have implemented.
Can We Grow Our Business and Help Mitigate the Virus’ Spread at the Same Time?
While most businesses have seen some, or all, of their volume decline to a fraction of normal levels, others have found ways to reposition their service offerings to thrive and still help “flatten the curve”. While many outpatient physician groups are postponing elective procedures, regardless of the patient’s situation, others are finding surging demand for new patient consults and exploring how to offer tele-consults and pain management. Several ambulatory surgery center platforms are exploring new CMS guidelines enabling them to leverage their footprints to support overcrowded hospitals and accommodate urgent services previously conducted within a hospital.
Inevitably, there will be an opportunity for larger healthcare players to acquire smaller companies with transactions that hopefully save jobs, expand patient care and access, while consolidating operating expenses.
Specialty distribution businesses, that provide essential mail order home medical equipment, are diversifying their product lines to ensure they meet the unprecedented demand from customers who have a greater need for a single source of supplies. We have been in discussion with a revenue cycle business, whose call center is no longer billing and collecting on current accounts receivable, but has repositioned many of its call center resources to assist a post-acute care company to call on its isolated patients and help triage their needs to appropriate resources. We have also heard from many diagnostic labs that are experiencing an uptick in testing volume to rule in/out respiratory conditions with symptoms similar to COVID-19, so they are repositioning their supply chain and staffing to ensure availability of appropriate testing capacity.
Should We Look for Opportunities for Consolidation?
The unfortunate truth is that many smaller, sub-scale companies will be unable to weather this crisis. Inevitably, there will be an opportunity for larger healthcare players to acquire smaller companies with transactions that hopefully save jobs, expand patient care and access, while consolidating operating expenses. Well-capitalized, larger companies are already developing their acquisition strategies so they can move quickly once the cloud of uncertainty with COVID-19 ends. While nobody wants to benefit from another’s misfortune, such transactions ensure continuity of services and provide ongoing careers for most employees.
How Can We Engage Without Being Physically Present?
At a time when many companies are under duress and contemplating layoffs, businesses that typically deploy providers into patients’ homes, schools, or SNFs, are especially at risk. As a result, many of these companies are actively exploring alternative methods to engage with their patients without having to be physically present. Providers that position telehealth as a compelling and value-added solution for patients will see success with adoption, while those that position it as a “backup” or secondary level of care will face challenges. One CEO shared that his respiratory therapists have gained nearly 40% efficiency through their current telemedicine expansion; they are able to visit with more patients per day than ever before because they do not spend time traveling from home to home. Similarly, an autism services executive had previously rolled-out a telemedicine pilot, so his company was able to rapidly offer these remote therapy services across their platform to ensure continuity of services. In addition, a behavioral healthcare provider serving school districts quickly transitioned to a virtual delivery model that will even offer benefits when quarantines end. We were also contacted by a historically regional focused facility-based behavioral healthcare company that is now offering digital grief counseling services to patients across the country, enabled by their utilization of telehealth technologies.
Is There a Silver Lining?
These are just a few of the innovation healthcare executives are developing during this unique time that could enable paradigm-shifting care delivery changes. One of the silver linings of this terrible COVID-19 experience is that many of the most successful healthcare business owners appear to be progressing towards improving the cost, quality, and access to healthcare services overall.