This blog is part of Tandem’s COVID-19 Business Resource Series, where we will update the community regularly and offer industry-specific tips as well as our best solutions to minimize the economic risk many businesses may endure during this critical time. Tandem appreciates your trust in us and will continue to be your valued digital marketing partner during this pandemic.
Healthcare workers and industries are at the frontline in our defense against the spread of COVID-19. We rely on them for answers, to take care of us when we get sick, but who protects the healthcare industry? As a healthcare provider, it is especially vital to maintain your healthcare business during this pandemic and, more importantly, protect the medical personnel you employ.
COVID-19 Impact on the Healthcare Industry
After the announcement of the coronavirus outbreak, it was declared a Public Health Emergency by the end of January1 and hospitals worldwide began to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic. Though no one quite understood the severity or speed with which the COVID-19 virus would spread, doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals began to prepare. The CDC confirmed the positive test result for the novel coronavirus in the United States on January 20, 20202, and within two months, COVID-19 has caused nationwide shutdowns and a great wave of uncertainty for many citizens. It also brought an influx of patients to doctors and hospitals who are not equipped to handle so many cases of the coronavirus.
With the demand for COVID-19 testing quickly rising, nurses, doctors, and medical personnel are struggling to meet the demand. Due to misinformation, a delay in FDA-approved testing kits, initial limited testing, as well as government red tape, testing has been wildly lacking in the United States.3 Though more and more tests are now being administered with the help of remote testing sites, that’s not the only issue healthcare workers are facing. As the public panics and people stockpile face masks and sanitizer, the healthcare industry is running low on personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to care for the sick, including face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and gowns, among other things.4
Guide to Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic for Private Medical Practices
Healthcare providers extend beyond just hospitals and it’s essential during this time to adapt to the current climate. The American Medical Association (AMA) has outlined ways private practices should adjust their operations to effectively treat their patients during the pandemic as well as keep their medical staff safe and healthy.5
Develop a Plan of Action
Communication, decision-making, and preparedness are key to managing a private practice during a pandemic. Make sure the chain of command is clear and all employees are aware of the response process put in place when challenges arise, for example, in the event that someone tests positive for COVID-19. In order to assist primary care physicians in developing a plan to manage the practice during a pandemic, the CDC released a Medical Office Preparedness Planner6 that includes a planning calendar as well as an extensive checklist to ensure a thorough strategy.
Sanitation Protocols & Safety Measures
Hand-washing is one of the easiest and essential precautions all medical staff should take in addition to the use of PPE and proper disinfecting procedures for supplies, equipment, and the environment. The Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guide for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers7 provided by OHSA details other protective measures to implement for the health and safety of all. Implement a YouTube and video marketing strategy, developing instructional videos regarding these protocols or about the virus itself to educate the public. This is also an opportunity to appeal to the public, encourage them to donate, if they can, to organizations helping combat the impact of the novel coronavirus.
Studies have shown that when employees perceived a strong commitment to safety at their workplace as well as their perception of the risk, they were more likely to comply with all the precautions put in place.8 Most importantly, actively encourage sick employees to stay home and follow the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.9
Assess Supplies on Hand & Future Supply Acquisition
Especially now with the shortage of PPE and respirators, assess the supplies currently on hand and anticipate future supply needs. Contact supply vendors as well as health authorities to make sure your practice will receive the necessary supplies. The need for telemedicine has risen drastically due to the coronavirus outbreak as it allows physicians to continue running their practice but in a safer way.10 Consider implementing digital health tools to monitor patients virtually. Additionally, allow administrative and non-clinical employees to work remotely to protect your staff as much as possible.
Administrative & Financial Responsibilities During Pandemic
Though a private medical practice is a crucial need in the community, it’s still a business. As such, taking care of the business side is still an important part of managing a private practice during a pandemic. Review the current state of your finances as well as existing financial obligations, factoring the very likely possibility that many outpatient visits and other procedures you provide would be canceled or postponed. Contact third parties, such as the landlord or your vendors, to discuss adjustments to contractual agreements for the time being. Oftentimes, a situation like this requires difficult decisions to be made, including fewer operating hours or employee furloughs. Consider economic relief packages from non-profit organizations or low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.11
As the daily operations of your practice change, it’s important to verify your Google My Business information with the changes reflected so your patients are aware.
Manufacturers Switching Gears During Pandemic to Produce PPE
Businesses considered “non-essential” or unsafe regarding the spread of COVID-19 have been forced to cease operations as the nation takes great efforts to flatten the curve with shelter-in-place orders. Some companies, however, have shifted gears and are producing much-needed personal protective equipment. Hatch Exhibits, a Maryland-based company that usually builds custom booths and pop-up venues, have brought back furloughed employees in order to make face masks and sanitary gowns as well as headgear.12 Fashion designers, including Christian Siriano and other fashion brands worldwide, are sewing face masks as well as other necessary supplies.13 Car companies and other manufacturers are even stepping in to produce ventilators, including General Motor (GM), Ford Motor and General Electric.14 3M, most known for their scotch-tape and Post-it Notes, have joined the ranks of manufacturers producing N95 respirator masks, going so far as to ramp up its production in order to double their output within the next year.15 Countless businesses all over the world, from large corporations to local companies, are working hard not only to offer their employees a little more financial stability in these uncertain times but are fulfilling one of the greatest needs right now to stop the spread of COVID-19.
To all the frontline healthcare workers risking their health on a daily basis to combat this virus, we sincerely thank you.
Other blogs in this series:
1World Health Organization – Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
2The New England Journal of Medicine – First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States
3Harvard Business Review – Why Is the US Behind on Coronavirus Testing?
4New England Journal of Medicine – Critical Supply Shortages – The Need for Ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment during the Covid-10 Pandemic
5American Medical Association (AMA) – Tips for keeping your practice in business during COVID-19 pandemic
10American Medical Association – AMA quick guide to telemedicine in practice
11U.S. Small Business Administration – Disaster Assistance