On March 18th the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all elective surgeries and non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures should be delayed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The suspension of high-margin surgeries and procedures has led to billions of dollars of lost revenue and has threatened the very existence of many hospitals and health systems.
"Suspending elective procedures due to #coronavirus has lost billions of dollars for hospitals. As #socialdistancing eases, proactive hospitals can use email marketing to ramp up elective surgeries so they can recoup lost revenue."
As social distancing restrictions slowly ease and the federal government outlines new healthcare guidelines, it behooves proactive hospitals to use personalized email marketing to quickly ramp up their elective appointments, so they can regain lost revenue as soon as possible when they reopen after the coronavirus pandemic.
The financial impact on hospitals
As recently reported in The New York Times, the cessation of elective surgeries has left many of the nation’s 5,200 hospitals with idle clinics and vacant operating rooms. Unlike during other economic downturns, healthcare is proving vulnerable during the coronavirus-induced recession. In fact, more than 1.4 million jobs in the sector were lost in April. Hospitals are losing $50 billion a month according to a recent analysis by The American Hospital Association, which predicts a four-month loss of $200 billion by the end of June. Hospitals rely on elective surgeries for much of their revenue because both Medicare and private insurers generally pay more for such procedures than they do for other kinds of care. In fact, treating patients for a deadly illness such as COVID-19 is far less profitable than elective surgeries; hospitals report that they are actually losing money each time they treat a COVID-19 patient. Rural hospitals are suffering even more than larger institutions. Forty-four percent of rural hospitals operate in the red, according to the Chartis Center for Rural Health, which also estimates that about 450 rural hospitals are at risk of closing. Without rapidly recovering lost revenue from cancelled elective procedures, we might see widespread hospital bankruptcies (which have already begun) and further consolidation among the industry.
The health impact on patients
As reported in The Washington Post, doctors are concerned that the pandemic has produced a silent sub-epidemic of people who need hospital care but are too fearful to come in. According to a recent NRC Health survey, 53% of people have delayed care for themselves or someone in their household during the pandemic, and 60% of people think there is an elevated risk to contracting coronavirus when visiting a provider. In fact, some doctors worry that illness and mortality from unaddressed health problems may rival the COVID-19 carnage, especially in regions less affected by the coronavirus. For example, evidence is mounting that a large percentage of patients with heart attack or stroke symptoms that typically prompt urgent interventions are simply not seeking medical help right now. Although many operations are labeled "elective," this does not mean they are optional. It simply implies that the surgeon and the patient are able to elect the time when the operation will take place. Many so-called "elective" procedures can only be delayed for a few weeks without impacting patient health outcomes or their quality of life. And at the same time, hospitals desperately need the revenue from these procedures as soon as possible.
America begins to reopen
On April 19th CMS issued new guidance on providing non-COVID-19 related care to patients in regions with a low or stable incidence of the disease. All 50 states have at least partially lifted stay-at-home orders, and some areas are beginning to offer non-emergency medical care again. For many hospitals, there’s already a huge backlog of patients that need care. New scoring systems have been devised to enable doctors to determine the cases that should be seen first. Health systems now face a new challenge: how to safely and quickly transition from leading the coronavirus crisis response to driving the rapid recovery of their financial situation in order to protect the very institutions that save people's lives. Regaining lost revenue requires elective surgeries to begin on the first day a hospital reopens, which means you must start planning now. Hospitals that quickly ramp up their elective procedures will avoid nurse layoffs, physician pay cuts, and other difficult actions with real human consequences. Slower moving competitors will have difficulty avoiding these impacts, and therefore they risk letting go the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as facing the strong possibility of forced sales or financial restructuring.
How Paubox Marketing can help
Patients are likely to be hesitant about returning to hospitals. They will need reassurance that a medical facility is safe before they return. Now is the time to provide much-needed healthcare leadership by communicating clearly to help the public and your patients understand what is going on.
FREE WHITE PAPER: Secure Communication During COVID-19 Pandemic
Email marketing is an effective way to spread your message, with a $42 return on investment for every dollar spent. And nowadays people are turning to their inboxes more than ever. In fact, email open rates were up by 15% worldwide through March. Paubox Marketing is the only HIPAA compliant email marketing solution on the market that allows healthcare providers to send encrypted marketing messages which contain protected health information (PHI) just like regular emails, directly to recipients' email boxes with no extra steps. In addition, if you are a non-profit hospital or other health facility, FEMA will reimburse 75% of the cost of emergency protective measures (such as communication regarding general health and safety), meaning you can have most of the cost of Paubox Marketing covered.
Email segmentation has never been more important as when sending coronavirus updates. You wouldn't give the same medical treatment to a 75-year old person as you would to a 20-year old. The same goes for the information you share about COVID-19. Paubox Marketing allows you to segment your contacts and send personalized healthcare email marketing to recipients based on what information each of your audiences needs to hear most.
Types of information to share with patients
One of the best things that healthcare organizations can do right now is provide patients with timely, accurate, and relevant information from a trusted source. Information has been key to changing public behavior to control the spread of COVID-19. Knowledge will also help consumers feel confident returning to in-person health services. In addition to personalized information and health recommendations based on recipients' coronavirus risk factors, many topics are of interest to all your patients.
You may want to consider sharing the following types of information with patients to encourage them to seek the medical help they need.
How you are preventing the spread of coronavirus at your facility
Explain to patients the extra steps you will take to ensure visitor safety after you reopen, such as increased sanitization efforts, phone screening patients before in-person visits, and requiring face masks and social distancing in waiting rooms for example.
The risk to patients’ long-term health if they avoid medical care
The actual damage from someone's health condition may be worse than the theoretical risk of getting COVID-19 from a hospital.
The value of getting evidence-based care in an established medical setting
Patients shouldn't treat themselves by reading WebMD. They should rely on medically proven effective treatments, not unproven alternative at-home remedies.
If you’re like many other organizations, you ramped up telemedicine offerings in response to the pandemic. You can continue promoting these for all patients, especially those who don't feel comfortable returning to a clinic.
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You can share interviews with patients who have recently received elective care and have recovered successfully.
Information about financial assistance programs or low-cost clinics
Millions of people have lost their jobs because of the nationwide lockdown and consequently have lost their health insurance. If you have opportunities to help them, let them know.
Feel good stories about nurses and doctors
The level of community goodwill for hospitals has never been higher. Take the time to recognize and celebrate all the wonderful stories happening in your community. So many people want to support their local health systems, so tell them how to do so by making a donation, or simply by rescheduling their cancelled elective procedure.
Relevant blog posts you have written
If you or your facility publishes a blog, you can share content regarding recent hospital news, best practices to avoid infection, and other advice.
Send a survey
Consider asking patients to complete a short survey about the types of information they’re looking for you to share. Maybe they are burned out on hand-washing information, but they want to know how to stay mentally healthy while at home.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention or the World Health Organization
Prepare for flu season
Even if there isn't a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, hospitals and health systems must be prepared to communicate and act on the seasonal flu, which patients might confuse with COVID-19.
Now is the time for action
If your hospital or facility is suffering financial losses due to a lack of revenue from elective procedures, there are measures you can take today to quickly regain the revenue you have lost before it is too late. You must start planning now about how to inform patients when they will be able to rebook appointments, so you will start making revenue the moment you reopen. There is no time like the present to start personalizing your email marketing campaigns with Paubox Marketing so you can send your community the right information at the right time, before it is too late for them and for your business.