As practices navigate the many changes caused by COVID-19, new needs have emerged in response to the disruption of patient care. We followed the conversations amongst physicians and practice staff to assess the biggest pain points amongst Verana’s physician partners in ophthalmology, neurology, and urology today, and determine where data-driven insights can address these needs. The challenges fell under three main themes: delays to patient care; decreased practice revenue; and physician, staff, and patient safety.
Delays to Patient Care
The biggest concern amongst practices is the interruption to patient care, which has the potential to affect patient health and decrease practice revenue. For urology and ophthalmology, most in-person elective appointments have been postponed or canceled to protect physicians, staff, and patients from being unnecessarily exposed. This has created a need at the state and local level to further define what visits or procedures should be considered essential. Use of telehealth has increased during this time as a way to provide care to patients who still need care, but may not need to come into the clinic.
Decreased revenue from postponed and cancelled appointments have led to pay cuts, furloughs, layoffs, and even clinic closures across all specialties. Practices want to know the best way to support staff while keeping afloat, whether through applying for a loan, allowing staff to use paid time off, or laying off staff to let them apply for unemployment insurance. In some cases, existing work has been distributed among skeletal crews, and an ability to bill for new telehealth formats has become a priority to generate revenue.
Physician, Staff, and Patient Safety
Physicians and staff who still interact with patients have to be vigilant about their own and their patients’ health and safety. Some practices have been implementing screening and monitoring for physicians, staff, and patients coming into the practice and prioritizing implementation of telemedicine to protect physicians and patients when visits can be done from home. Procuring personal protective equipment for physicians and staff who are still seeing patients has been a concern for practices.
Additional concerns that came up included redistribution of space and resources to provide care for COVID-19 patients, interruptions in training and research, and missed learning opportunities from canceled conferences, though our partners are quickly offering virtual learning opportunities. Physicians have also been keeping less common ophthalmic and neurologic symptoms associated with COVID-19 in mind.
This research, supplemented with information gleaned from user interviews, is serving as a foundation to determine how Verana can provide support to practices and patients using registry data going forward. With real-world data from EHR-based registries, it is possible to track visit and procedure volumes and patient needs over time to enhance patient care and inform practice finances moving forward. With more visits occurring virtually, data can also potentially measure the effectiveness of telemedicine. As we all adjust to new circumstances, we hope we can assist practices with their needs, as well as a safe transition to a new normal.