Hospitals Can Look to Their Rehab Departments for Profits Post-COVID

In mid-March, it felt like our lives were flipped upside down. COVID-19 cases were on the rise and our collective hospitals were gearing up for an influx of patients infected with a virus that was scary and unknown, to say the least. Hospital outpatient therapy departments experienced a wide range of responses to the pandemic. Some saw a decrease in visits as patients attempted to socially isolate and “stay in place.” Others mandated a complete closure of their therapy department outside of essential visits in an effort to conserve personal protective equipment and hospital resources. Across the board, therapy services decreased and patients were unable or unwilling to work on their personal goals of mobility and function.

After almost three months of reduced/uncompleted therapy, we are left with patients who are daily losing function and strength and revenue “streams” that have turned into revenue “trickles.” It is time to pick up the pieces and get active in rebuilding therapy services. Our clients have never needed us more, and we can have a positive impact on the bottom line of hospital financials. As we rebuild our departments, focus points should include:

  • SAFETY: Always safety first. Ensure protocols are established to clean between patients. Cleanliness is crucial in limiting the risk of exposure for staff and clients alike. Make sure you are sharing your cleaning protocols with physicians and patients to help them feel safe and comfortable.
  • MARKETING: Look around. Identify your audience and grab their attention, such as:
    o Past patients – Revisit those who cut services in an attempt to “stay in place.” Chances are they haven’t been moving more while staying home. Restart those plans of care.
    o Physicians – Express the essential nature of your services to overall health. Talk about how increased mobility, improved cardiovascular/pulmonary function and increased strength effects overall health and wellness.
    o Identify new markets – Many community members have become lethargic with social isolation. There are opportunities to capture a new group of patients and grow your practice. Look at all three disciplines. What can PT do differently, better, more? OT? SLP? In some locations, the caseload diversity changed greatly after clinicians identified groups of people who have been affected by the pandemic.
  • TIGHTEN THE BELT. Analyze your current operation. As you bring staff back into the workforce, identify employee strengths and weaknesses. Position your staff to maximize employee strengths and give them the resources to excel. Build your practice according to need and skill. Position your practice to be the premier location for therapy services.

We have the opportunity to move from an upside-down, topsy-turvy and confusing pandemic into a well-defined, safe, patient-centered and profitable resource for our hospitals and community. Therapy services are essential. Therapy services can change lives. We have the keys.

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