What providers are up against
Providers are being impacted in a big way—and in ways that we couldn’t imagine. Health systems need to recognize the challenges providers are facing in both their professional and personal lives.
Fluctuating patient volume
Providers are undoubtedly experiencing a change in their patient census. Whether it’s an influx of patients, or a complete shut-down of offices, it’s impacting provider stress levels. Constant change and inability to truly plan strains all access points in the health system, including offices, call centers, operations, and providers themselves.
Providers have to balance the delicacy of communications while managing a new “normal” that changes daily.
Keeping up with current patients
Sick patients still need to be seen, yet it’s estimated that 77% of primary care physician time is spent on high revenue preventative services. Fewer preventive appointments can mean significant financial losses for providers. Although tele-health and telemedicine capabilities and incentives are expanding, providers need time to adapt to the new environment.
Providers in most states are transitioning to telemedicine (thank you CMS for the Telemedicine Factsheet) expanding tele-health services, but this takes time.
Regardless of whether a provider’s schedule is too full or not full enough, how do they prioritize and communicate appropriately with all patients? Some patients may need help rescheduling their appointment, while others may need more support. Providers know their patients best and worry about those that may have social determinants of health (SDOH) challenges, or who may not have a strong social network to get them through this time.
According to a 2018 study, over half of doctors experience burnout — more than double the rate for other professions. Many providers cite bureaucratic processes and long hours as major contributing factors. As providers now add grappling with personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, overcrowded hospitals, providing care outside of their specialty, and long hours, feelings of burnout will increase.
Change is coming and that is difficult for some providers. When providing support, liaisons should consider the pressing challenges facing providers:
- Are they equipped and trained to do telemedicine?
- Are they effectively managing patient communication?
- How will they reschedule so many patients?
- Are they protecting themselves and their staff?
Disruptions to living situations
Providers are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and many are being extremely cautious about protecting their loved ones from exposure. There are reports of providers going so far as self-isolating in garages, basements, and trailers to help mitigate risk. Ongoing separation from their families can have negative mental health consequences f in an already stressful work situation.
Child and eldercare
Providers with children and elderly dependents may be struggling to balance their profession with their care-taking duties. Increased hours mean an increased need for child and elder care, and not all providers have other relatives who can step in to fill in the gaps.
Increased stress, working hours, disease exposure, and separation from loved ones will undoubtedly take a toll on providers, especially those on the front lines. Many are struggling with making time for meals, sleep, and downtime to recharge.
“CMS is issuing a blanket waiver to allow hospitals to provide benefits and support to their medical staffs, such as multiple daily meals, laundry service for personal clothing, or child care services while the physicians and other staff are at the hospital providing patient care.”
Learn more here: Sweeping Regulatory Changes to Help Address Patient Surge
How management and outreach teams can help
Although liaisons can’t be in the field right now, they can still build relationships and offer meaningful support from a safe social distance. During this transition, your providers may have more time and they are likely very interested in hearing from you and how your health system is providing support, resources, and information.
We usually recommend a three-step process for any provider meeting: Pre-visit planning, action and insight, and post-visit documentation. To account for the current situation and limitations around in-person meetings, we provide a revised approach below. We’re providing universal access to these capabilities with a complimentary version of our Physician Relationship Management (PRM) platform. If your organization doesn’t currently use PRM or is evaluating options, we provide details for open access at the end of this post.
It’s still important to plan and be up-to-date. Check your PRM/CRM data to assess patient volume, phone call volume, and other data that will give you an idea of stresses the provider may be facing. Know your health system’s protocols, news, and support functions as well.
Action and insight
Be proactive but tactful about the insights you share with providers. You can use data, but consider revising your talk to include the following:
- Discuss support functions provided by your health system.
- If the provider offers telemedicine, provide information and support on how you’ll support them.
- Discuss options for PPE.
- Gather and record information:
- In the event volunteers are requested, are they willing to volunteer?
- Do they have needs at home? Child or elder care challenges? Food or meal drop off?
Make sure you document every interaction. By tracking key issues and conversations, you can provide invaluable data back to your executives that may be immediately actionable — especially if you are seeing trends across multiple conversations.
Follow up is especially important, particularly for time sensitive issues surrounding care-taking, transportation, or tech support. You are an advocate for your providers and taking an active role in helping them care for their patients.
For those who use SymphonyRM’s Provider Relationship Management Platform, we’ve added COVID-19 specific features to simplify provider outreach and assistance. Each provider profile now includes a drop-down menu where liaisons can easily track which providers need assistance with meals, child care, transportation, and remote work tech support. You can add detailed notes and dates as needed, too.
Provider Needs Capture and Reporting Example
Our reporting dashboards show physician needs and priorities across the market to help leadership make the best decisions for their needs. By filtering according to specific needs, you can help administrators with strategic decisions or directing the right resources to the right individuals.
Changing healthcare circumstances require changing support tactics for liaisons.
By keeping in mind the personal and professional challenges providers face under COVID-19, liaisons can strengthen relationships with physicians by supporting them at a time when they need it most.
These capabilities are available on the complimentary version of our PRM tool. You can learn more about how this may work at your organization by watching the video below or by emailing email@example.com.