The United States reached a milestone: over 100 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. With more and more people becoming vaccinated, more patients are likely to seek the care they put off due to the pandemic. Although healthcare facilities made it clear months prior that continuing to seek care during this time is both safe and important, there were still patients who chose to delay elective procedures, either because they wanted to be able to have visitors post-operation, lost health insurance or wanted the additional protection of the COVID-19 vaccine before stepping foot into a medical facility. Regardless of reason, your healthcare organization is likely to experience an increase in patient volume as the summer months approach. Here are some things to take into consideration so you and your staff are prepared.
1. When you begin to loosen visitation restrictions, anticipate more patients
No matter how routine, having a procedure done can be scary and stressful for patients. Pre-pandemic, most patients were able to have the support of family or friends attending appointments with them or being there for them as soon as possible after leaving the operating room. The thought of having to have virtual visitors during the pandemic made many patients uneasy, causing them to delay truly elective procedures. However, elective procedures eventually become emergent, and many healthcare facilities are beginning to loosen their visitation restrictions. If yours is one of them, you should anticipate this change in policy increasing the number of patients scheduling appointments.
2. More patients are getting their health insurance benefits back
Although the U.S. still has a long road to economic recovery post-pandemic, the national economy gained almost 400,000 jobs in the month of February, and with that, many people who lost health insurance because of the pandemic have recently or will soon be getting their coverage back. For this reason, you should anticipate more patients scheduling appointments and procedures they initially had to delay over the past year due to financial reasons.
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3. Enhanced safety and sanitization are making procedures take longer
By this point, medical staff are no strangers to the enhanced safety and sanitization efforts made by healthcare facilities to keep patients, clinicians and other staff members safe while in the office. Although these efforts are nothing new, it’s important to keep in mind how much time they add to a typical appointment or procedure, and how this could become problematic when it comes to trying to accommodate more patients than you have in previous months. To get around this issue, many healthcare facilities have chosen to implement additional office hours during this time.
4. Consider implementing additional hours, at least initially
With more patients seeking appointments, it might make it easier, both on patients and on your practice or healthcare facility, if you augment your traditional practice hours with night and weekend hours. Patients who have recently returned to work might not have the flexibility in their schedules to attend appointments during weekdays, and you might find you need these additional hours to keep up with increased demand. However, this might also mean you need to seek additional coverage during this time. If you don’t have enough staff to implement weekend or after-hours appointments, a locum tenens staffing expert can help make sure you have enough support without over-burdening your full-time, permanent staff.
5. It’s important to provide burnout relief for your full-time, permanent clinicians
Providing burnout relief to your full-time, permanent staff is important, even if you aren’t choosing to implement additional practice hours. It’s no surprise this past year has been especially grueling for physicians and advanced practitioners. Many were not able to take time off work during the pandemic, and now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised those who are fully vaccinated are able to travel, your staff will likely seek a much-deserved break over the summer months. LocumTenens.com associates can help you secure full-time, part-time or on-call coverage, whether your full-time staff is taking a much-needed break, or they simply need additional support caring for the influx of patients.