Navigating a Crisis: Telehealth & Re-opening
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down everyday life for much of the country. In many states, stoppages were even ordered for healthcare deemed non-essential. Dermatology practices were left to figure out how to care for their patients and keep their practices afloat while adhering to rapidly-changing local mandates and federal safety recommendations.
Transitioning to Telehealth
While some practices were able to remain open, albeit with reduced hours and service offerings, others were forced to temporarily shutter their physical locations. Both scenarios negatively impacted patients’ access to care and practice revenue.
Though telehealth platforms have been around for years, wide-spread implementation has been limited. According to The Physicians Foundation’s 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians, just 18% of physicians were equipped to deliver care virtually. A recent survey by Merritt Hawkins found that the number has jumped to 48% today, likely fueled by the pandemic.
Pivoting to a telehealth platform isn’t a simple press of a button. Considerations such as a practice’s IT infrastructure, reimbursement and compliance issues and staff training must be addressed on the front end.
Early on, QualDerm leadership recognized the gravity of the COVID-19 situation. The operations, IT and financial teams quickly developed a strategy to implement telehealth platforms at a majority of QualDerm-affiliated practices. Within two weeks, 85% of QualDerm’s partner providers were trained and able to begin seeing patients virtually.
This quick action allowed practices to continue to offer high-quality care and enabled them to keep some of their staff working. Further, the telehealth option prevented some patients from choosing to delay care. In fact, during one telehealth appointment a QualDerm-affiliated provider diagnosed a lesion that required immediate intervention. The patient admitted that had the telehealth option not been available, she would have waited to seek care.
Opened with Safety-first Precautions
As restrictions are scaled back, and in some cases, completely lifted, practices are beginning to increase capacity and those that were closed are re-opening. While this is good news, how to best ensure patient and staff safety requires significant planning and ongoing vigilance.
Since the beginning, QualDerm’s physician-led Quality Council took the lead in monitoring the COVID-19 situation and communicating best-practice safety information to the entire network. Together with QualDerm’s leadership team, the Council also developed a 48-point safety checklist to help affiliated practices mitigate risk.
QualDerm’s operations team has worked side-by-side with its affiliated practices to ensure all safety protocols are implemented and continuously followed. QualDerm has also developed and is executing a patient and referral source communication strategy highlighting the practices’ safety measures and current available service offerings.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, QualDerm’s Quality Council and leadership team are closely watching and adjusting safety protocols and practice operations as needed so its affiliated practices can continue to deliver the highest-quality dermatology care possible.
Learn more about how QualDerm can help your practice succeed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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