The operational and financial disruptions of COVID-19 have forced radiologists and other types of providers to assess their financial state and how they communicate on daily tasks

Five key lessons for boosting hospital finances and operations during COVID-19

January 20, 2021
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
COVID-19 has left the operational and financial landscapes of many providers and specialties in uncertain territory. Cancellations in elective procedures, combined with new socially acceptable behavior for interactions and staff working remotely have forced them to reassess their day-to-day workflow and ways of communicating with one another.

Radiologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts Medical School, Mayo Clinic, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Lahey Hospital and Medical Center recently shared 14 lessons they have taken from their experience and how it has helped their practice thrive during this difficult time.

Here are five of them:

1. Plan and implement effective communication and data sharing strategies
Having a plan on COVID-19-appropriate behavior and working remotely is essential, as is making sure staff and physicians fully understand it. Email, video, teleconferences, social media, or internal newsletters can be used to do this, but effective communication depends on the local culture and types of professionals one works with, and requires transparency.

One way, according to the authors, is to appoint a communications director. They also say to “be inclusive and mindful of your entire team including technologists, advanced practitioners, nurses, administrators and your research faculty. Remember that not all levels of staff have access to work email from home. Establish how you can physically reach all members of your team, in working with their managers.”

2. Undertake a financial risk assessment
Canceling elective procedures and relocating patients has hit practice cash flow hard. A financial risk assessment can help practices offset this effect and make more informed decisions to cut expenses. An organization itself or a consulting firm can carry this out.

“Through a deep dive into your financial status, this assessment can point out where your vulnerabilities lay, what your practice's attitude, tolerance and capacity are for taking risks, and can help develop budgeting strategies,” wrote the authors.

3. Manage your practice operating expenses, optimize your clinical income and revenue streams
A more flexible financial and operational structure can help organizations better manage future financial disruptions, while a tiered strategy of measures can cut costs. Salary cuts, pausing capital projects, negotiating service contracts due to lower use, and furloughing programs and workers temporarily can help, as can pandemic-specific revenue and loan opportunities.

“For Academic Medical Center practices, work closely with your AMC's financial team to craft a financial plan that recognizes radiology's importance to the daily functioning of the AMC operations, and the need to maintain an 'intact' radiology department, to be able to immediately respond to recovery of elective and outpatient imaging,” wrote the authors.

4. Adapt to thrive in the post-pandemic future: reimagine, design and implement your future clinical practice now
A recovery and resurgence plan can help practices incorporate effective policies and do away with those that prevent jobs from being fulfilled. It should include assessment of pandemic-related policies, and plans for internal and external communications, IT, PACS, report generation, clinical scanner shutdowns, and support for remote and virtual care. One recommendation is a Recovery Task Force to oversee recovery plans.

5. Show genuine appreciation to your team
Addressing any challenges in a pandemic or other healthcare-related disaster requires teamwork, which thrives on appreciation for all team members. This can be facilitated through effective leadership, fostering team well-being, communication and customer service. “Be it through listening, telling people what you value most about them, or simply checking in with them, great leaders should focus on and cultivate appreciation in the workplace, whether this embraces recognition for performance, or appreciation for effort and intent, regardless of the outcome.”

These and more of their recommendations can be found in Academic Radiology.