COVID-19 Recovery Planning for Hospitals and Health Systems


The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for healthcare organizations. Hospitals and other medical institutions must scramble to mitigate both the spread of COVID-19 and its economic impact. Healthcare leaders must also prepare for a newly uncertain future. Despite currently being in the response phase of COVID-19, it is not too early for healthcare leaders to begin thinking ahead to the recovery phase.

A recent webinar from Becker’s Hospital Review discusses 7 steps that healthcare organizations can take to move toward financial recovery after COVID-19:
  1. Establish Leadership and Owners
  2. Set the Target
  3. Brand the Program
  4. Establish Guiding Principles
  5. Design the Machines (Create Structures to Promote Action and Accountability)
  6. Identity Resources
  7. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Leaders and owners of the recovery program are the people who will oversee the program in its entirety. There are two levels of leadership/ownership. 
  1. Executive Sponsor
    The executive sponsor is a person at the executive or management level who will set the tone and create urgency. They ensure accountability for everyone.

  2. Recovery Program Owner
    The recovery program owner acts as the central point of coordination for program leadership/management. The recovery program owner serves as the “captain” of the program and pulls it all together.
Due to current unknowns caused by COVID-19, the target should be considered a moving target for now. As the threat of COVID-19 subsides, fixed targets will be better known.

When setting targets, consider what your organization needs to do:
How much money does your organization need for stability? How much does it need for future investment? How much is needed for growth?

What makes sense and is realistic financially? For example, will an immediate opening of your OR help your margin? Or, because of overhead costs, should smaller incremental steps be taken to allow for a slower influx of cases? 

What can your organization do with its current capacity, and how can you expand it to take on additional volume? Consider safety and staff burnout when determining the operational target.

When determining targets, aim high, but keep it realistic.

After the target is set, create a graphic to aid in communication so everyone understands what the target is and why. This graphic must make sense, and you should be able to explain it to everyone to ensure buy-in at all levels.

Name the recovery program. Naming and branding something will ensure it is easily remembered. Naming it also helps with meeting invites, creating buy-in, and securing engagement. Be creative – make the name memorable! 

Guiding principles are crucial to creating buy-in and shaping a company’s culture. Create guiding principles for the plan so people know its importance. Keep these guiding principles front and center during the planning process and throughout its implementation. Post them where people can see.

When developing your guiding principles, reaffirm that the recovery program should improve operations, quality, and staff satisfaction – not just grow the margin.

Develop projects and initiatives that support the financial recovery targets you created in Step 2. These projects/initiatives are the machines.
  • Because there are a multitude of variables that contribute to an organization’s success, there may be dozens of projects created revolving around numerous themes. Themes can be related to supplies, pharmacy initiatives, staffing, OR capacity, etc.

  • Each project should have a sponsor who oversees it. This person will report to the Recovery Program Owner named in Step 1.
When creating projects and developing initiatives:
  1. Identify opportunities
  2. Vet these opportunities. Review your potential savings created by each to determine which opportunities to reject and which ones to explore further.
  3. Of those opportunities that will be explored further, prioritize which ones are the most pressing to complete.
  4. Set targets, timelines, and determine resources for project completion.
  5. Establish tracking mechanisms for projects.
  6. Determine accountability for results.
Do not expect each project to be a home run. Some projects will be more cost saving than others, but the culmination of all results will help lead to the final financial goal. 

Determine the teams who will work on the initiatives created in Step 5. These are your resources.

Resources may be teams that already exist in your organization such as process improvement teams, project management offices, etc. If similar teams do not already exist in your organization, find people who have skills such as:
  • Analytical skills
  • Facilitation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Project management skills/experience

Develop a recovery communication plan. Engagement and ideas come from all levels of the organization, so make sure everyone knows about the plan. Communication may be different for different levels of the organization. For example, communication with the executive/management level may be more in-depth or numbers-focused than communication with others.

When communicating targets at all staff levels, put it in terms that are not overwhelming to staff. Use actionable targets instead of financial targets. For example, instead of saying, “We need to add 100 million dollars to our margin” say, “We need to add 10 cases per day to the OR schedule.” People can wrap their heads around actionable targets more than financial targets.

In Conclusion
Despite the hardships and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, one good thing that it has done is remind us that we are all in this together. Please keep this in mind as you navigate the future. We hope Wapiti Medical Staffing can serve as a resource for you as you weather the current storm and as you prepare for post-COVID operations. If you would like to start a conversation about how Wapiti can strategically help with staffing your facility’s needs, please contact our office at (888) 733-4428.

Wapiti Medical Staffing
107 Flynn Drive
Suite 600
Milbank, SD 57252

Phone: (888) 733-4428
or (605) 432-6621
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