Health Administrative Partners is publishing three articles with advice for practices on how to reopen effectively and safely, and what changes to expect in workflow in a post-pandemic world.

Tips for ramping up imaging workflow safely in a post-pandemic world

June 22, 2020
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
As imaging providers reopen their services in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, there are important concerns that need to be addressed. New guidance from Healthcare Administrative Partners, a medical billing service organization, provides HR considerations and patient scheduling best practices.

The first step, they say, is to gauge workload expectations. “There will be fluctuating volume in the coming months, so do your best to prepare your employees for this,” Rebecca Farrington, chief revenue officer for Healthcare Administrative Partners and a member of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA), wrote in the article. “Stay in touch with furloughed or laid off workers. Establish an HR contact that will provide them with resources and keep employees updated weekly about any changes that are occurring in the practice.”

Here are a three key takeaways from the HAP guidance:

Have a plan for employees
Furloughs and layoffs caused by the pandemic will impact the schedules for employees even after the pandemic ends. It is, therefore, important to update policies around and have a plan for requesting time off, whether it be paid time off, family and medical leave options, or vacation time. Any updates should comply with the CARES Act reporting requirements, as well as state requirements.

HR teams should be updated on these changes, as well as documentation needed for rehires of employees furloughed. Radiologists should also expect to be on call to handle potential increases in workload and staff should expect to take on roles and tasks they have never done before.

Keep staff and patients safe
Greater attention to cleanliness and safety will be a must in the post-pandemic world, with practices required to protect against exposure to COVID-19 among patients and staff members. This involves cleaning down scanners and exam rooms in between patients, taking temperatures of individuals upon entry into the building, and enforcing social distancing guidelines in areas such as waiting rooms. Dedicated entrances and traffic patterns for immunocompromised patients, including those undergoing chemotherapy, should also be set up for those who have clinic appointments or are participating in imaging studies.

Staff members should be educated on these policies and how to react appropriately when risk of exposure is flagged. Anyone who needs to be sent home due to fever should be connected to human resources staff to discuss appropriate steps for quarantining, dates for when they can return to work, and the proper health entities to self-report their illness to. In addition, alternative work plans or secondary chains in command should be set up in the event that a key leader or manager is exposed to a positive individual.

Manage patient volume
Practices should expect a surge in patients following the end of the pandemic, and should therefore stay in touch with and be ready to reschedule patients once restrictions lift. Care and services should be prioritized based on severity of cases and which patients require immediate care.

Providers may need to extend hours of operation to keep up with the surge, and rehire furloughed employees, which should be done carefully to avoid the risk of potential discrimination claims. They also should have a feasible revenue benchmark to aspire to. They can do this alongside revenue cycle partners who will assess volume and revenue projections in the coming months and help determine what percentage of lost revenue can be recovered.

“To date, the treatment of non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients has been a 'hands off' approach," said Farrington. "We now have the opportunity to treat known or suspected positive patients with a more hands-on, physician-led approach. Imaging can play a vital role in the management of these sick patients. Regardless of the number of outpatient and inpatient imaging locations your organization supports, you will need to deploy a strategy to manage the imaging for high-risk patients as well as ongoing management of COVID-positive patients.”