COVID-19 “Stay at home”. What now? Operational Solutions During Time of Crisis
In March, the world, as we know it, changed. We all faced the challenge of continuing our operations despite our traditional business models being deemed “unsafe”. Balancing the needs of the facilities and the patients we serve with maintaining the safety of the staff became paramount.
These same challenges impacted all our provider partners in a very profound way. How did you handle the situation in your organization; especially those employees who were responsible for revenue generating functions or patient facing communication? Here at Magnet Solutions, our job consists of fielding all customer service calls regarding patient responsibility balances as well as resolving millions of dollars in self-pay receivables, each month, on behalf of our clients. It was vital that we remain able to carry on in these roles to provide service to the patients as well as an important source of cash to our provider partners as their revenues were being negatively impacted by the cessation of elective procedures and preparations for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
To continue providing an uninterrupted level of service to our clients and their patients, while focusing on the well-being of our employees, it was imperative that we quickly deploy our staff to remote work environments. To avoid service interruption, these relocations had to be accomplished in days, not weeks. Relocating a workforce of more than 60 staff requires extraordinary orchestration, coordination, and a well-developed plan. Our relocation plan also had to comply with CDC requirements for worker safety as well as regulatory and security compliance afforded our Team in our corporate environment. All of this had to be completed while avoiding any disruptions in client operations and throughput. It was important that we continued to meet our commitment to our clients’ performance expectations in both customer service and account resolution. Transitions such as this are the type of project that companies spend months-to-a-year planning and executing. In most of those cases the changes are slowly phased in to include a few staff members at a time with ongoing troubleshooting and bug fixes. The Magnet Solutions IT Team was able to reduce this implementation period down to a time-frame we would not have thought possible, but the need for an immediate response arose and they met the challenge. Their attention to detail and their solution-oriented focus were key to the success of this process.
Our IT team worked around the clock to transition our employees to work-from-home environments and maintain our operational commitments to our partners. We remained and continue to remain staffed at full capacity and plan to continue so. The work-from-home environments of our employees mimic those in our office, with respect to HIPAA Compliance, Telephony, Call Recording, Security, Management Oversight and Access, Payment Processing, and all aspects of our day-to-day operation.
Key Take Aways
Focus on Compliance in all Aspects of Project Plan – Make sure that every decision when building the project and deployment plan accounts for ensuring compliance with all necessary regulation.
Over-Engineer a Project Plan and then Eliminate Unnecessary Aspects – Put every conceivable step into a project plan and then organize the steps and eliminate duplicate processes or unnecessary steps. It is easier to eliminate on review than to fit into the plan once you are moving forward with the plan. Anticipate hardware and software needs.
Prioritize Employee Implementation – It is important to prioritize the roll-out of the deployment to ensure the continuum of service to your customer(s) while simultaneously ensuring employee safety.
Evaluate Employee Work-From-Home Environments – By evaluating the environments that employees will be moving to, you can prioritize to get the greatest number of employees deployed in the shortest amount of time and with the least effort.
Evaluate Internet Bandwidth Requirements – Everyone’s bandwidth varies and with children using bandwidth during the COVID-19 crisis, to school from home, the employee’s bandwidth availability is very important to support uninterrupted operations. Identifying limitations in this area allows for the engagement of an internet provider to increase bandwidth if necessary and to move such employees down the deployment queue to a more appropriate position.
Evaluate Physical Work Environment – Because of the strict HIPAA and security regulations in healthcare, it is important to ensure that an employee’s home workspace is and can be secured, beyond password protecting their computer access. If remediation is necessary, knowing so will assist in prioritizing that employee’s deployment.
Evaluate the Importance of the Employee’s Role – By evaluating and assigning a level of importance to the role of each employee, you can build your deployment strategy to support your goal of uninterrupted operations. (i.e. A clerical role may be something that can be done off-hours for a short period of time and would allow for easier social distancing, whereas a patient contact role requires functionality during more regular hours.)
Build a Detailed Deployment Checklist – Building a detailed checklist will reduce the probability of an IT resource having to stop in the middle of a deployment to retrieve important tools or hardware/software. These may vary by employee, so they should be developed based on the deployment needs of each employee or functional role.
Test, Test, Test – Practice deployment and test all aspects of the plan to reduce or eliminate unknowns.
Execute the Plan – Use your resources wisely but spread them as judiciously as possible to optimize the number of deployments that can be completed daily. This will make the entire process, including delivery on client expectations, more efficient. Keep your deployment teams communicating in the field.
In approaching our move to work-from-home for our employees, we used these key steps and in less than a week we had over half of our staff deployed and within 10 days, we successfully moved over 85% of our workforce (60 employees) to Work-From-Home environments. Our employees are our most valuable asset and we did everything in our power to protect their health and the health of their families. Our goal was to afford them the safety they needed, but also maintain the team working environment that helps make them successful on behalf of our clients.
Our IT professionals had to overcome the aforementioned internet connectivity issues for staff members as well as the testing of phone lines both through our dialer platform and our internal phone system in a matter of days. Additionally, our IT team was able to provide streamlined and effective education and training to staff during the transition because many of the questions were anticipated. This allowed for a more efficient setup of work-from-home environments and faster troubleshooting to enable end users to become more self-sufficient and provide solutions in a fraction of the time it would typically take.
A large portion of the success, outside of our IT Team, can be credited to our migration to cloud based computing systems over the past two years. These allowed staff members to work from home in an environment that exactly mimics our office environment from a technology and end user perspective. Our account management and dialer platforms worked seamlessly, giving all users and patients we talk to the same patient friendly, customer service driven, experience they would receive if our staff were in office.
Our clients saw little to no decline in our calls, productivity, or their revenue. Ironically, we had a record month across all clients in April for total cash recoveries. The ingenuity and flexibility of our team placed us on the cutting edge of this transition and allowed for our organizations to have solutions in place and performing at peak levels weeks ahead of the majority of companies, both locally and nationally. This offered peace of mind, built trust, and allowed us to assist patients, partners, and staff through this crisis, while maintaining or exceeding historical cash flow volumes. While other revenue sources were severely impacted, these contributions to our clients’ cash flow were vital and we were proud to step up and deliver them.
The ingenuity and flexibility of our team placed us on the cutting edge of this transition and allowed for our organizations to have solutions in place and performing at peak levels weeks ahead of the majority of companies, both locally and nationally.
Chief Information Officer,
Accelerated Receivables Solutions and Magnet Solutions
Keys to Success with Patients and Their Accounts
Our goal on behalf of our clients during these uncertain times remained unchanged, but our approach to achieving it shifted. Our aim was to assure patients that we understand their situations and to demonstrate empathy, and that we are here as a resource to help them navigate these challenging times.
“In times of crisis, people want to be heard and understood, and they are extremely sensitive to tone and motive. Our most important stakeholder right now is a human being who is craving comfort and connection, and suddenly needs a poignant human experience. How can you make a positive difference in the life of a patient today? Our first, and most pressing question is, “How do I support those, with whom I interact, in a meaningful, human, and relevant way so all parties involved leave with a better experience?”
Chief Compliance Officer,
Accelerated Receivables Solutions and Magnet Solutions
Our staff made the commitment to continue service to patients with compassion and empathy as the major focus of all communications. Additionally, there have been multiple resources made available to patients and consumers to help mitigate financial hardships and concerns. We share these resources with patients and educate them on what is available and how to access information and assistance. In addition to education, we offered reduced payment options and deferrals to mitigate the stress that patients and consumers may immediately be feeling. We will offer more favorable payment options, for a period, to get through this difficulty and arrange to discuss a change when things improve. It is important to set the stage with the patient as to what the normal payment guidelines are and that they are being offered a more acceptable option for a fixed period, pending the improvement of their personal situation. It sets a very positive tone for the relationship between the patient and the provider to show such empathy.
We take a great deal of pride in our ability to serve our clients. If your experience with your partners has been a challenge or if you continue to struggle to maintain business continuity during these difficult times, we invite you to have a conversation on how we might be able to help. We offer free assessments, no obligation quotes and a formal business plan to show ROI for self-pay receivables. Let us show you how our Team will compliment yours. Together, our combined resources have amazing potential.