Refilling the Patient Pipeline – the Key Step on the Road to Financial Recovery

May 28, 2020  |  Joel English


Fracture events (those that are pervasive and disruptive on an unprecedented scale) change our worldview forever. COVID-19 is certainly one of these events, with perhaps its greatest impact on healthcare. Never have we cancelled this many medical appointments and procedures that we worked so hard to secure. The negative financial impact is daunting, and the patient disruption a factor we need to address in the right way to return to financial stability.

There is no history to guide us to help anticipate how COVID-19 will impact provider brands, selection criteria and processes, experience expectations, and what it will take to refill the patient pipeline.

Recognizing the rapidly evolving nature of attitudes and expectations as the crisis unfolds and needing solid and timely data to help inform our thinking, BVK fielded a research study in late April as the first of a three-wave national survey. The second wave will be fielded at the end of May and the third the end of June. Our study complements other national findings and specifically drills down into brand impact and consumer expectations for re-engaging with their healthcare system now. This blog is the first in a 5-part series exploring these insights, and other related topics.

Topic 1: If they were coming to us before, they will get back in the queue, right?

If only the world were that simple. Note, there are two variables in play here…when they will reengage…and with whom.

While the vast majority of people in numerous studies who had postponements indicated a willingness to engage now for some services, close to 30% (across all service categories) indicated that they will delay engagement until they are fully convinced that their risk of contracting COVID-19 from their care event is nil.

When those with postponed appointments and procedures were asked what it would take for them to want to choose to reengage, there was no single condition or determinant (again if the world were only that simple).

Our survey suggests a very individualized “dashboard” of indicators and comfort thresholds, with only some of the elements under provider control. There will be no single set of milestones or proof points that will address the emotional and rational criteria of all patients.

A funny thing happened on the way to the queue…

An informal survey of marketers found that most felt they would retain virtually all their pre-existing cases and appointments, with time to engagement being the only variable.

Our research paints a very different picture.

Notice that 52% of tests and screenings that were rescheduled by the end of April were scheduled elsewhere. A high number, perhaps understandable based upon immediacy and a possible perception that tests and screenings are somewhat universal.  But what about specialty consults and surgeries? These kinds of interactions often involve long standing relationships, referral channel dynamics and patient participation in provider selection. Despite these factors, 34% of specialty consults and 44% of surgical cases scheduled by the end of April moved to new providers. Now that is a game changer.

It is a classic good news/bad news scenario. At least for those engaging now, there is an opportunity for you to move market share from other providers if you are ready to meet their needs.

But the bad news is that your competition has the exact same opportunity.

What do you do now?

  1. Think the way they are thinking, and perhaps more importantly, feel the way they are feeling. This is a big deal for them. Show in how you talk and act that you know this.
  2. Relationships matter, but in a crisis, responsiveness appears to be trumping relationships, at least for a portion of the patient population that is engaging first.
  3. Above all, act now, the window to engage these first movers will close.

In our next blog, we will explore what you need to offer them to get them to use you.

In the meantime, feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions or comments. And join us for a presentation on more of our survey findings and a complete recovery plan to refill the pipeline in our Road to Recovery Webinar. Click on a date option below to register:



is a Managing Partner, BVK Health

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