A View Into The healthprac Crystal Ball For 2021
Updated: Jan 28
2020 has shown us what can happen to the world at a moment's notice. On an industry level, we all experienced unpredictable shifts in how we work. In the healthcare industry, changes were massive and left many practice owners scrambling to comprehend and navigate these choppy waters. With constantly changing waves, these uncharted waters required flexibility, with a readiness to make changes rapidly. But alas 2020 is no more and a new year is upon us. Therefore, I intend to look into healthprac's crystal ball and give predictions as to how we see the changes in 2021 for practice ownership.
Unfortunately, the dream of a COVID-19 free 2021 was a fallacy, with continued cases of the virus plaguing the Eastern coast of Australia as well as new strains of the virus somehow finding their way onto our shores. Most practice owners responding to this, have modified their patient flow within the premises, including spacing chairs, reducing the number of patients seen at any one time, temperature checks, Telehealth visits, PPE being made compulsory for most, and of course the clear Perspex protection panels on the front reception desk. At a practical level, these are effective and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by the compliant practices.
So the big question, what is ahead of us for 2021?
The answer is simple but complex. It depends on the re-infection or new spread of COVID-19, but the question is, should it? Should we not be prepared regardless? Is the cost of being prepared more than the actual possibility that nothing may happen? Let's look at these possibilities:
How we work
Physically seeing patients may soon become a secondary approach as Telehealth leads the way with consultations. Telehealth is probably the most frequently used mode of communication and consulting throughout the industry during lockdown periods. Saving for more hands-on professions, the rest of the health industry benefited highly from seeing patients in need of healthcare.
We have been operating on physically seeing our patients and have built workflows around this modality. We have a dedicated check-in check out for the patients and a troubleshooting station which is the reception. When working online, there has not been a similar set up in most places and shifting to a new way of operation in the future. Embracing this change will allow clinics to adapt to an environment that is dictated currently by COVID-19, as well as any future threats from similar scenarios.
How we communicate
As our primary focus on communication has been built around physical consultations with patients, and secondary communication to keep in touch with patients, I predict a shift in how we communicate in 2021.
Patients who cannot get to clinics and utilise Telehealth will need regular contact with the practitioners.
As the pandemic grew, there was a wide variety of communication that happened via private phone calls, text messages off both work and personal phones, emails that were not on a secure network, and video conferencing using personal devices as a temporary stop measure to communicate to patients as there was little time to adapt more robust infrastructure.
As with building a physical practice to see patients in the flesh, a health practice's business plan needs to have a virtual practice capacity. Systems and protocols need to be in place to allow for a smooth transition and patient care for this new way of working.
How we set up our practice
An abundance of information has been released regarding additional measures that require implementation in the current pandemic environment.
Australia wide, governing bodies like the Department of Health have issued guidelines and protocols that will see implementation by 2021. There have been various implementation levels seen in general practice. However, it will become a requirement for all health practices to have implemented the uniform standards. Regulatory bodies may audit premises for their readiness concerning the pandemic, and this can be quite cumbersome for practices if they have not already commenced implementation.
Finally, with the vaccine almost ready for release into the market, practice owners must prepare their practices for the delivery of these vaccinations, including modifying existing infrastructure and patient flow through the practices.
2021 will see a different way of working for our health practices, and with assistance from relevant parties, including healthprac, health practices can utilise these changes for the betterment of practice operations, patient experience and general health outcomes.