Hospitals Save Our Lives. How Do We Save Them? Part Three

Part Three of a Four-part Series

First-mover Hospitals Take the Advantage

How to increase market share with Rapid Recovery in the post-COVID-19 world

Repairing the financial devastation COVID-19 is wreaking on hospitals and health systems must begin now, even as rates of infection crest and patient care takes all of our focus. Rapid Recovery from the financial blow requires elective surgeries to begin again — patients scheduled, and ORs ready and staffed — on the first day (and night) possible. This is not optional.

Here’s why: Hospitals that achieve Rapid Recovery will maintain — and gain — market share. And that will be the difference between hospitals that survive the pandemic, and those that do not.

The complete pivot to COVID-19 of all clinical and administrative operations at every hospital means that market share in the post-COVID-19 days will be up for grabs. The coming period of Rapid Recovery will create winners and losers in every market. And the winners will reset market share at the expense of slower moving competitors.

Rapid Recovery won’t be achieved by a single strategy. Winning the race to post-COVID-19 financial stability requires a rebuilding of surgical volume, as well as possibly one-time cash payments from payors, and certainly government stimulus. It also could lead to resetting market share by taking volume from competitors who do not move swiftly enough. Cutting costs just isn’t going to solve the problem at this critical moment.

Hospitals that achieve Rapid Recovery will avoid nurse layoffs or pay cuts, physician pay cuts, and other difficult actions with real human consequences. Slower moving competitors may not avoid these impacts, and therefore risk damaging their brands by letting go the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the strong possibility of forced sales or financial restructuring.


Time is of the essence: Rapid Recovery begins now

All hospitals have long lists of deferred elective surgeries due to COVID-19. That pent-up demand seems like low-hanging fruit: simply reschedule those patients as soon as the coast is clear. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Consumers are likely to be hesitant about returning to hospitals anytime soon. They fear the remnants of COVID-19, and they need reassurance and confidence before they’ll return. And many consumers have lost jobs and insurance coverage — along with their ability to manage co-pays and deductibles.

Bottom line: There will not be enough food in the trough for all hospitals after COVID-19 crests.  

Speed matters. To seize the first-mover advantage, hospitals and health systems must start planning now to go to market the first day possible. Launching a day late may be better than a day early, but it cannot be a week late. Delay too long, and the advantage of a Rapid Recovery will go to the first mover in each market – and second movers may be scrambling for table scraps.

The details of a Rapid Recovery will vary from hospital to hospital and market to market. Across all, however, winning the race will require a robust marketing approach and strong content that consumers trust and value. It will also require physician alignment and engagement because recovery may require seven-day-a-week OR schedules, or even 18- or 24-hour schedules for some time. In addition to marketing, operational and financial planning considerations must be thoroughly considered for a Rapid Recovery. The time to plan is right now.

In terms of operations, simply rescheduling elective procedures put on hold from March to May and pushing back those scheduled in June to later in the summer isn’t enough. First movers will use Rapid Recovery strategies to double-up surgeries in the short run. They will pull forward procedures that had been planned for competitors’ ORs. Rapid Recovery can also allow hospitals to pull physician splitters away from competitors, quickly resetting market share.

Another reason to organize for Rapid Recovery now: COVID-19 may crest and pause this summer and then return in the fall. We must plan for the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence as well as another difficult flu season in late 2020 and early 2021. Our window for elective surgeries is likely to be limited this year, and the first movers will take full advantage of it.

Hospitals are at the center of the nation’s consciousness at this incredibly difficult time. Frontline nurses and physicians will be honored for ages as they save lives in the crisis. Now it is up to their leaders to save their hospitals. To do everything they can to continue their missions despite the financial devastation of the COVID-19 crisis. Guiding them to recovering — and thriving — is our mission in the coming weeks. That’s what Rapid Recovery is all about.


Check out part 4 of this blog series.

April 16, 2020
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