Healthcare Business Development: Strategies for a Post-COVID World

While the entire world has been turned upside down throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our healthcare system has clearly been the hardest hit. Some hospitals are packed to maximum capacity with ICU patients, while others have indefinitely postponed all elective procedures and have been relatively empty for months on end. This has led to less revenue across the board, higher expenses, and massive amounts of furloughs and layoffs for some healthcare professionals while those who have kept their jobs are overworked and exhausted. There is no one size fits all solution to dealing with the rapid changes needed to accommodate COVID-19 patients while following safety protocols. Still, it’s obvious that the way healthcare facilities and agencies have operated in the past need to be brought up to speed.

It’s very clear that the majority of healthcare organizations weren’t ready for this rapid change. Unfortunately, the impact that this will have on healthcare businesses will by far outlast the pandemic itself. The financial burden put on healthcare due to the impact of COVID-19 continues to grow and the only way to find a way out is to start developing new strategies now. The focus should be put on business development and strategies that reassess how care is delivered, how to get necessary supplies, and how to navigate through the new and unique operational and financial challenges that we’ve been presented with. While it’s tempting to return to business as usual, healthcare businesses need to focus on how to move forward with a fresh outlook and a better approach to healthcare from here on out.

The importance of healthcare business development now

We are not living in the same world we were in at the beginning of 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually everything has changed and the importance of healthcare business development has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 crisis. While healthcare organizations in the United States have historically been operating at minuscule margins and struggling to stay afloat, the pandemic has opened our eyes to the many inefficiencies taking place in healthcare organizations across the country.

As healthcare continues to grapple with the strain that COVID-19 has put on its facilities, it’s vital to prioritize business development strategies moving forward. For healthcare businesses to succeed in a post-COVID world, new business strategies need to be implemented that focus on long term growth based on what we’ve observed during the pandemic. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities look and function vastly different than they did before the pandemic. Customer needs are evolving and their expectations from healthcare businesses and health professionals they work with are much different than they were a year ago. With all of the changes taking place, there’s no way to move forward without reevaluating and establishing new strategies to best move your healthcare organization forward and upward.

Strategies to consider in a post-COVID world

Acknowledging and following growing trends among all of the changes that have taken place over the last year is the first step in your new healthcare business development plan. Simply put, a single strategy probably won’t do the trick. It’s going to take a long, hard look at all aspects of operations to find the places that require improvement. From new safety protocols to new patient expectations and the need to be able to navigate a reduction in cash flow successfully, there are many factors to consider when strategizing how to move forward in a post-COVID world.

Establish a rapid response process

An organization’s agility and ability to adapt will always be beneficial in any situation. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen that many healthcare facilities struggled with rapidly responding to the changes that needed to be made quickly to keep staff and patients safe while accommodating the increase in demand for ICU beds. Establishing a rapid response process and a clear chain of command would ensure quick decision-making, leading to faster action when needed most.

Within your rapid response process, you will need to clearly outline the chain of command, what to do if a patient tests positive for COVID-19, and the steps that need to be taken after that diagnosis. Although there is a lot of focus on COVID-19, this truly goes beyond the current virus and into any situation where a rapid response is critical to the outcome of a situation. Ensuring that you have a well known, clearly outlined process in place will speed up response time and avoid unnecessary confusion or delays allowing your organization and personnel to do what needs to be done as quickly as possible.

Improve operations models

Most healthcare organizations are finding that their operations models are far from where they should be. For most organizations, this has likely been true for some time and hasn’t been remedied due to the simple fact that large operational changes take time and money. However, it’s come to a point where it can no longer be ignored. Put the primary focus of future planning on developing new operations models that focus on efficiency and financial stability without compromising patient care and value. A complete overhaul in which there may need to be organizational restructure, employee re-skilling and re-assignment, and the implementation of new processes and systems from the antiquated ways of operating provides a vast number of benefits and opportunities across the board.

Plan for cash flow disruptions

Cash flow is at the core of every business, including healthcare businesses. Many healthcare businesses saw a huge decline in cash flow in 2020 because of canceled elective surgeries which make up a large chunk of cash flow for most healthcare organizations. Unfortunately, because most facilities are operating at very small profit margins with very little liquidity, it’s put many organizations in a place of intense financial strain. Devising a plan for possible disruptions in cash flow in the future can help to prevent or, at minimum, lessen the burden of a temporary lack of revenue.

Proactive communication with third-parties such as vendors, landlords, and creditors about reasonable accommodation for future cash flow disruptions, for example, can be a step in the right direction. However, cash flow challenges don’t just disrupt payment to third parties. Many employees saw themselves furloughed or terminated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial strain. Devising a plan for cash flow disruptions can hopefully help avoid the loss of essential employees due to a temporary revenue reduction.

Reevaluate supply needs

The way healthcare facilities have been stocked with supplies in the past is likely different than the current needs for supplies. With the reduced number of people seeing in-person care, consider how your organization’s supply needs may have changed during the pandemic. While there have been shortages of certain PPE and respirators, are you finding that you’re overstocked on other items that are no longer needed as frequently due to the reduction in other types of patients? Take inventory of what is on hand and what previously considered staple items can be scaled back, providing cost savings moving forward. Vendor consolidation should also be considered as it would simplify supply ordering processes and may procure additional discounts.

Adopt a Patient-Centered System

While the healthcare industry is highly focused on being profit-driven, as all businesses are, there is a big shift taking place. The previous volume-based healthcare business models are unsustainable and, frankly, have left many patients with a negative association with healthcare. Shifting the focus to a more patient-centered system can transform an organization in a way that will pull back reluctant consumers giving them more confidence in the care they’re receiving. Providing value to patients through low cost, convenient, and quality care is the type of healthcare that most patients are starting to seek out.

Instead of falling into the trap of the volume and quantity focused model of the past, a focus on quality is a reasonable place for all healthcare organizations to start moving toward. These patient and value-based systems empower organizations by more easily attracting patients who are starting to look for enhanced, quality healthcare. While it is clinicians who are ultimately face-to-face with patients, employers need to reduce the pressure on employees by removing profitability based incentives that result in practices that are less than desirable and put patient-centered care at risk.

Embrace Innovation

During the COVID-19, there has been an explosion of demand for telehealth services. While the technology has been around for years, virtually meeting with patients hasn’t been the standard of care until it became necessary as a community effort to slow the spread of the virus. With safety protocols in place, people have utilized technology to be able to see their doctors and get the help they need through remote care.

Without the pandemic, it’s unlikely that patients and healthcare organizations would have adopted this method of communication as rapidly as they have. Although this is an unexpected benefit of the pandemic, it seems the popularity of telehealth services is here to stay. In fact, the AMA has put together a Telehealth Implementation Playbook PDF outlining telehealth, implementation, and best practices for healthcare organizations.

Although remote patient care has clearly become a new standard of care to lean into, embracing innovation isn’t just about prioritizing telehealth services. Health tech companies continue to develop technologies and tools that can help healthcare businesses who are ready to make that leap into a more digitized, technologically advanced organization to improve their operations.

How PDV Health Consulting Services Can Help

Whether your organization is looking to implement new strategies or go through a complete overhaul of your healthcare business operations, it’s crucial to have support to help your organization navigate the new challenges and changes. PDV Health Consulting provides that necessary expertise when it comes to strategy and organizational change within healthcare facilities and agencies. Our unique team of clinical and administrative professionals comprises some of the most qualified consultants in the healthcare industry with decades of experience to lend to your healthcare business.

While COVID-19 has placed an enormous strain on our healthcare businesses, it’s important that we take what we’ve learned from this health crisis to move forward, creating a better form of healthcare for businesses and patients. By learning from what went wrong and using that information to come up with strategies to strive in a post-COVID world, we can pull a positive side effect out of a devastating situation.