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What community hospitals need to survive and thrive in the near future

There are some key challenges facing community hospitals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What we’re seeing is more demand on hospitals to provide data to government organizations, state reporting bodies, etc. A high demand is being placed on the electronic health record (EHR) to utilize that data, which is an expected deliverable at this point from central reporting bodies. However, this puts a stress on many community hospitals.

From the patient perspective, the pandemic has given patients important insight into telehealth and how they can access providers and facilities. Being ready from an IT perspective will greatly help the communities serve their patient populations.

Community hospital executives can mitigate the financial effects of the pandemic in the long run right now.

This year many healthcare organizations have lost key revenue they expected from outpatient procedures. Identifying alternative sources of revenue can help mitigate the financial effects of the pandemic, and the big push we’ve seen across organizations is telehealth. Patients really look to a community hospital as a source of advice and their healthcare needs. And eing able to provide telehealth technology is key for a hospital to improve operationally.

We’ve also seen a big stress on emergency departments where they’re holding patients for a long period of time due to COVID-19 screening. Being able to take advantage of as many efficiencies as possible, such as using your EHR for tracking abilities, has played a central role to help offload some of that stress.

There are some key changes community hospitals will face operationally as a result of the pandemic.

Executives can now prepare their hospitals for how healthcare delivery will change. I would strongly suggest taking advantage of your vendor partners. In our conversations with hundreds of organizations, we’re not only learning how those on the front lines of care delivery are evolving, we’re identifying ways we can collaborate, sometimes between clients. I highly recommend taking advantage of vendors’ ideas and expertise in that regard.

There are technology initiatives that will help community hospitals mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic–the pandemic was the inflection point of that technology. We’ve had telehealth and patient engagement solutions available for some time, but COVID-19 has really pushed the functionality to being universally adopted. (In fact, I’m disappointed that my doctor wants to start seeing me in person!) Mobile patient engagement platforms that communicate with communities will become expected for patients to schedule appointments, pay bills and speak to providers.

Put strategies into place to curb the long-term consequences of healthcare worker stress.

We have to take care of the healthcare professionals doing the hard work. It’s important to identify strategies to support staff’s emotional, mental and physician wellbeing. Opportunities to address wellness content and nurse advice lines are important. Support those who want to transition off the front line to a lower impact role.

There’s been good things that have come out of the pandemic.

We’ve been able to engage our communities better, work better as teams and transition technology. All of those require agile movements and open communication. It’s a transitional time for many organizations. Some good things will come out of this for our communities as we transform how we deliver healthcare moving forward. We’ll be able to take advantage of what we’ve learned together as a team.

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