The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of our society very quickly. It has already impacted many industries and taken Wall Street into reporting not seen in decades. Healthcare is also very much in focus; however, for the most part, that conjures up thoughts of ER rooms with doctors and nurses in quarantine spaces. The impact on Mental Health providers is also significant. The stress of the unknown is often magnified or sensationalized by 24 hr news cycles and social media feeds creating panic, anxiety, and the potential for hysteria among the general population. Behavioral Health Providers are anticipating a rippling effect with an increase in treatments of anxiety-related behaviors, sleep disturbances, and overall lower perceived state of health. Individuals with mental illness and those in recovery will undoubtedly be even more vulnerable to the effects of this widespread threat. The absence of definitive treatment for coronavirus easily exacerbates that anxiety. Behavioral health practitioners should focus on spreading sound infection control practices and helping their communities maintain civil, courteous, and rational communication to help in early detection and treatment to spare patients unnecessary suffering.

Keep your practice healthy and active

For a behavioral health practice, a pandemic like this can affect not only patients but the business as well. It is essential to take this time to ensure that your practice is also going to stay healthy. While any quarantines or the focus on the virus itself may slow business over the coming weeks, it does not alleviate the need for the services you provide. Many providers are exploring video conferencing or creating more access by telephone to help patients. Remembering to create a sense of calm and assurance within your reception and office experience is also helpful. Stay connected with your patients by maintaining or increasing email and social media outreach, proactively offer tips and empathy to help them manage this stressful situation.

Pay attention to your revenue cycle and plan for the future

In these uncertain times, your revenue cycle may need extra attention. Keeping the billing office running during an outbreak is key, even if that is a challenge for smaller operations. Handling billing and coding in a time-sensitive manner and as efficiently as possible is essential. Insurance companies will be dealing with lots of virus-related claims, so it is crucial to ensure your reimbursement submittals are in order and coded correctly. Providers should proactively evaluate collection protocol, as many patients may be financially stressed due to layoffs or unexpected expenses. It may become necessary to offer plans and payment options that are more customized to their needs. Now more than ever it is critical to plan not only for the present but for the future. The impact of this period on the mental health of many of your patients will be longer term than the outbreak itself. There will likely be an uptick in therapy demand once the pandemic has passed. Plan for those possibilities so that you can be ready to manage your patients needs.

Our society has weathered similar outbreaks in the past, however, with access to social media and newscasts, the spread of information, for better or worse, can create a significant impact on behavioral health patients and practices. Let your patients know you are there to help them get through this. If needed, get 3rd party partners to help manage your business so that you can stay focused on doing what you do best, helping your patients.

More helpful tips

  • Let your patients know that you there for them through this period. Offer information, incentives, and opportunities to assure them that they can access the care they need.
  • Be on the lookout for government-subsidized programs to help uninsured patients.
  • Mobilize your networks to ensure that, if infected, your clients are receiving the mental healthcare they need as well.
  • Exercise additional planning in managing self-pay, high-deductible and other cost-sharing arrangements as payers may be under unusual financial stress.
  • Allocate resources appropriately as anxiety-related treatments may be in higher demand than usual.
  • Evaluate your capacity carefully and, if needed, seek third-party help in managing your revenue cycle so that you can stay focused on your patient’s needs.