Summer is transitioning into fall, and with it many medical practices are transitioning into a new routine. We are used to the flu season bringing increased patient counts and perhaps decreased staffing, as school functions, and school’s ability to spread the self-same flu, put added stress on our administrators, doctors, and nurses. Yet this year, what we have come to expect of the fall season had been turned on its head. Some children have returned to school, while some are learning from home, meaning some of our staff members are still juggling work, tutoring, and parenting from home. Meanwhile, continued social distancing measures may decrease the severity of the flu season, yet with such a scattered approach to prevention measures across county and township lines, that protection cannot be relied on.

In this uncertain environment, how can a medical practice, or any business, focus on improving their operations?

In my own business, we are restructuring and focusing on how to move forward with our new reality. It is difficult to balance the need to implement new services, upgrades, and staffing with such an uncertain future. Forecasting future revenue has become tricky, if not impossible! We have been in touch with many MGMA members as well as non-MGMA practices and in nearly every case, we see practices just trying to maintain their business. Projects to improve the business are not being thought about, much less implemented, even as patient throughput at clinics is back to full capacity – in some cases even exceeding previous schedule backlogs. My worry is that, as fall and flu season and continued uncertainty over the pandemic unfolds, our practice managers will continue to be stretched thin filling in for missing staff members and struggling to implement COVID-19 preventative measures, while managing a practice that may see declining patients and revenue if the pandemic worsens.

There are no easy answers to these problems. We can only collectively focus on supporting our hardworking staff, keeping everyone safe, and planning for when we will have the time, revenue, and staff to implement new projects.