As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to spread; hospitals, outpatient centers, and emergency rooms are preparing for the possibility of overwhelming volumes. As a consequence, shortages of staff, space, and supplies are predicted across the industry. While patient safety is the top concern, another is the financial health of our healthcare system.

The spread of COVID-19 is damaging healthcare’s revenue cycle. Below we have summarized the current condition of the industry and the necessary steps recommended by industry experts.

1. Elective Surgeries and Procedures Postponed: Many hospitals and healthcare facilities are running low on key medical supplies such as masks, ventilators, and beds; and more facilities are preparing for resource shortages. To actively address COVID-19, CMS recognizes the need to conserve critical resources. The new guidance is to limit non-essential adult elective surgery and medical procedures until after the crisis is resolved. The goal is that these guidelines will help preserve vital resources during this global pandemic. Unfortunately, such cancellations and postponements will cause a major financial blow to many healthcare organizations because these procedures account for a significant portion of a provider’s revenue and margin.

2. Telemedicine on the Rise: Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding package. One provision of the bill is to relax restrictions on telemedicine. Rural and site limitations have been removed, meaning that telemedicine services can now be provided regardless of the patient’s location. Therefore, the patient’s home is now considered an eligible originating site under Medicare. Furthermore, before the COVID-19 pandemic, home and sites not eligible for telemedicine, received a facility fee. This has since been removed under the new bill and virtual care visits are now payable under the emergency bill. This has the potential to completely change the way providers are compensated for telemedicine.

Along with changes to payment, the Department of Health and Human Services temporarily relaxed enforcement of parts of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applicable to telemedicine.

“Effective immediately, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype, during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.”

The goal of these actions is to increase access to healthcare while limiting patient volume in the facilities. This too has the potential to change the standard interaction between patient and caregiver.

What Can You Do?

Be nimble and stick to your emergency plans. The situation is evolving by the day, and many factors are truthfully outside of your system’s control. There are simple ways to be proactive, protect your revenue cycle and build flexibility into your equipment acquisitions, these include:

  • Prepare: Anticipate challenges and develop plans. If you have seen resource shortages this year, consider increasing your equipment inventory to be prepared for the next flu season. Engage your medical equipment leasing company earlier to get ahead of budgeting for future needs.
  • Conserve: Implement conservation strategies to increase the availability of cash flow on hand. Medical equipment leasing allows you to avoid the upfront costs of purchasing equipment while maintaining fixed, low monthly payments in order to help you allocate financial resources to areas that require the most attention.
  • Adapt: You may be accustomed to buying your ventilators, patient monitors, beds, and other capital equipment outright. However, the flexibility to quickly scale your equipment based on need, is a primary benefit of an equipment lease or rent model. Instead of purchasing excess resources, equipment leasing will enable you to lower the acquisition cost and provide flexibility to extend, purchase or return based your future need.

Healthcare facilities must take steps now to develop a process for decision making, anticipate future needs, and continue to provide the necessary service for their communities. The healthcare experts at Meridian Leasing are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic very closely, recognize the challenges you are confronting and are here to help you get through it. Call +1 (888) 684-3644 or send an email to sales@themeridian.com to learn more about the advantage of leasing on your revenue cycle and how we can assist during this uncertain time.