Many of us are still scrambling to keep up with the exponential challenges we are all facing during the COVID pandemic. While many facilities are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of clients coming into mental health and substance abuse in-patient treatment, others are seeing dramatic increases in the number of out-patient clients seeking services.
It’s all very confusing, frustrating and exhausting.
We brainstormed five things you can do today to improve your practice during this pandemic that can benefit you in both the short and long terms. We’ve listed them in the order we think they are most important.
#1: Focus on Your Accounts Receivable
First and foremost, we recommend you revisit your verification of benefits processes. During this pandemic, people are losing their insurance coverage at alarming rates. A patient who had insurance last week, may not this week, and the patient isn’t likely to tell you about the change. Now is a good time to create a process for verifying insurance more often.
Next, you should review your uncollected invoices and claims. The work has already been done, so this should be relatively easy money. Now is a good time to shake the trees for any money you can get to fall out of them.
Look at your claim rejections for common reasons for payment denials. If you have a consistent documentation or workflow problem, now is a good time to address that problem to increase the efficiency of your billing operations going forward.
Relaxed telehealth rules have opened a whole field of opportunities for practitioners to attract clients who were resistant to treatment before the pandemic. These potential clients were resistant to treatment because they feared loss of privacy or could not overcome scheduling issues. Therefore, now is a good time to create a marketing campaign to attract self-pay telehealth clients. This is immediate revenue as opposed to the insurance reimbursement revenue that can take months to arrive.
#2: Make It Easy to Start Treatment
We surveyed more than 100 mental health and substance abuse treatment websites and discovered that some sites make it easy to for new patients to make an appointment and some are nearly impossible to navigate.
The first step in this process is to really take a hard look at your admissions process. Can it be simplified? For example, on one site, we discovered the patient had to download and complete more than a dozen forms and each one required the patient download, print, fill out, sign, scan and upload. Making it worse, the patient also had to fill out the same information multiple times. We compared that to other facilities where the patient was required to fill out only two forms. And these forms could be signed electronically, preventing the patient from having to print, sign, scan and upload.
Once you’ve clarified your intake process, now is a good time to update your website. Typically, a potential client who went to the effort to search for a treatment option near them has already said yes to treatment. Your website should make it easy to get started.
Here’s an example of one we thought was pretty good: Home of Grace in Mississippi.
#3: Explore Emerging Opportunities Quickly
The facilities who jump on new opportunities first are usually the ones to receive the most long-term benefit. Finding new opportunities can be a daunting task, but here are some suggestions:
- Look for new local, state and federal grants and programs. Governments are releasing money for innovative ways to deliver much-needed services during this pandemic, but it will require fast action to get into the program. One place to look for new grants is Grants.gov.
- Stay in close contact with community and healthcare partners in your community. Ask them how they’re adapting and changing to circumstances and look for ways you can partner to solve related problems.
- Dot the I’s and cross the T’s. In this rapidly evolving environment, your chances of making critical mistakes go up. Make sure you look at the details of a government grant very carefully in search for the hidden gotchas that may be included.
#4: Connect with Community Partners
If you don’t already have strong relationships with community social and healthcare partners, now is a great time to create or strengthen them. Almost every system is struggling to cope with additional burdens right now. Your practice or facility could become a natural partner to help another system cope with the pandemic.
Can you create Critical Incident Debriefing programs for healthcare workers on the front lines?
Can you bring your mental health services to another provider’s clinic or office, so clients can meet more of their healthcare needs in one place? This would prevent them from having to travel to multiple places in your community, thus decreasing the risk of spreading the disease to others.
Can you work with other social services agencies to create mobile options to bring mental health services directly to elderly people who struggle to use technology, but also are at high risk for travelling outside their homes?
In our nation’s history we have overcome some big challenges. We did it by working together.
#5: Become an Internet Resource
We list this one last because it’s likely to be the least effective and the most difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, we see valuable opportunities if it’s done right.
For example, you can create a local mental health group on Facebook for your community. This could be a place where individuals can ask questions, connect to resources and enter a treatment pathway.
You may also consider creating a short weekly video series where your mental health practitioners offer advice for dealing with common mental health or substance abuse problems you see clients in your practice struggling to overcome. If you’re clients are struggling, you can bet others in the community have similary needs. This could open the door for many people to receive treatment who otherwise would not attempt to do so.
However, there are two challenges to this idea:
Creating content can be difficult if you don’t already have someone on your team who knows how to do it and has the natural motivation to do so.
Once the content is created, you need someone who is social media savvy to make sure it is seen by the greatest number of people possible. Social media management was once a task almost anyone could do. Today, it takes legitimate skill to navigate social media complexities.
Right now, we are in the middle of a genuine global economic and healthcare emergency. The number of people suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems is rising quickly, which means our industry has both an opportunity to help and a challenge to rise to the level of need. We hope these five tips help you and your team think of new ways you can help others and remain a profitable business.
Please feel free to contact us anytime with questions, comments or concerns. We are always interested in working with people to solve the most difficult challenges.