Over recent months, COVID-19 has become a predictable pillar of public life. Thousands are becoming infected on a daily basis, and aside from the symptoms themselves having an impact on people and society, there is a significant risk of long-term problems building up and impacting us for years to come. Here are a few of the ways that coronavirus will impact not only the specific industry of medical billing but the medical sector on the whole in the coming years.
1) “Long COVID” effects
In recent months, a phenomenon known as “long COVID” has emerged. This has occurred in certain coronavirus cases and manifests when individuals retain symptoms from their time infected with the virus. According to The British Medical Journal, these symptoms include profound fatigue, a cough, muscle aches, and even palpitations. This means that, in addition to the short-term strain placed on the medical sector by coronavirus, there is likely to be the need for treatments in the long term. Not only does this increase the demand for medical care and hospital beds, but it could further lead to pressures on the medical billing sector. Whilst the duration of these symptoms is still unknown, there is potential for Medicare to be used far more often in the years ahead.
All of this is in addition to the pandemic itself, which is likely to be an issue until a vaccine is developed, and potentially beyond dependent on the uptake of the vaccine once it is available for mass use. In the time until a vaccine can be deployed, cases of long COVID are likely to continue to emerge and cause issues for the health system.
2) Unpaid bills could be more commonplace
The United States has, thus far, seen a total of over 6 million cases of coronavirus. Whilst the vast majority of cases will not see symptoms, this still means that hospitalizations are high, with tens of thousands of patients needing treatment to get through their illness. Each and every one of these patients will have medical bills to pay, whether they’re insured or not. Even on Medicare, patients will still need to pay for any hospital deductibles, copays or coinsurance costs. These bills will add up, and when combined with the fact that a significant proportion of the American population were thrust into unemployment as the economy shut down, many people will be unable or unwilling to pay their medical bills.
When the medical billing sector is already busier than ever, needing to follow up on unpaid medical bills is yet another task that could make it far more complicated for the profession to adapt. Whilst medical marketing could be employed in order to remind patients of their obligations, there remains a risk of companies being made to feel the squeeze from unpaid bills.
3) Inefficient workflows
Workflows in medical billing are now likely to be more complex than ever, with typical hospital admissions being supplemented with the difficulties of the highly varied coronavirus hospitalizations. This means that workflows can become far more complicated and difficult to process, and with backlogs becoming much more likely to build up you can easily see weeks of cases combining to give quite the queue to work from.
There can be some benefits to the sector from this. Firstly, it is a good opportunity for companies to create and develop more efficient methods of dealing with workflow issues. After all, if your business can work through the backlog created by a global pandemic, it will be far more efficient in the future thanks to the lessons learned in this tumultuous period. Secondly, the pandemic is an opportunity to locate areas of your operation that don’t quite work, exposing the departments that are failing. In addition to the aforementioned changes to processes, this is an opportunity for a rigorous structural examination of your organization.
What are the overall impacts?
Ultimately, whilst we broadly know the short-term impacts of COVID-19, the long-term issues remain unknown. An increase in the overall level of medical billing is highly likely, which will keep queues and workflows busy for potentially years to come, but with the correct attitude and implementation, you can view this pandemic as an opportunity to fix processes and develop your business in ways that you could not have previously. We will likely be feeling the impacts of COVID-19 for years to come, and in medical billing we have a good idea of what form that will come in.
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Also, check out our article on how to The Pandemic Could Lead to More Uncollected Medical Debt, 10 Things you Need to Know About the Coronavirus and Medicare, and our End-Of-The-Year Checklist for Medical Offices
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