What’s next for COVID-19? Only everything (that matters)

There were no questions about which “COVID-19 firsts” every healthcare organization would have to announce…

First statement on preparedness. First suspected case. First confirmed case. First death.

We know that regardless of where your organization is on that spectrum, you are well beyond your first “first” and are highly interested in preparing for what’s next.

But we also know that asking which COVID-19 issue is next is like asking what’s on Amazon. Everything. And you can’t prepare for everything, so you prepare for the thing that wakes you up at night, then the next one, then the next one.

For example, a couple of weeks ago one regional system deliberately but quickly assembled a series of communications scenarios on the issues they were most likely to face next:

  1. Service alterations and suspensions
  2. Staff layoffs and furloughs
  3. Supply constraints

Whether you’re well past those three or still waiting for them, the challenging but necessary reality is that you have to shepherd your organization’s resources at each stage. And you can save lives, time and money, while best fulfilling your mission by making the many tough choices that come with focusing your efforts only on the needs of the audiences who matter most to your organization.

The organization we’ve seen be most successful have done so by preparing the right team members not for every possible scenario but for the right scenarios. They’ve made decisions – and relevant materials – based on likely outcomes involving their most important audiences.

Across the many similar scenarios we’ve seen, this strategic focusing has paid dividends by:

  • Identifying weak spots prior to an actual crisis
  • Streamlining response times and processes
  • Increasing internal awareness of key roles and responsibilities
  • Maintaining focus and buy-in on the part of internal stakeholders, limiting noise and confusion

These organizations have also gained trust and confidence among key audiences –invaluable assets during the ongoing pandemic – thanks to proactive communication about what they are doing to prepare for and prevent what’s yet to come. So, while moving quickly remains imperative, know that narrowing your focus and moving a step at a time is both good and necessary.

Unfortunately, that process will get harder from here. Knowing what’s next is nowhere near as obvious as knowing what’s first.

And while we can’t predict the future any more than you can, we’ve had the opportunity to listen to dozens of healthcare providers of all stripes over the past few weeks. Aggregating those conversations – along with simply tracking the news as everyone is – has led us to recognize a handful of likely, critical “nexts” in the COVID-19 arc. If you’re overwhelmed by the number of possible issues that could be just around the corner, start by evaluating how prepared your organization is to announce or respond to one, or a few of these five scenarios:

  1. Staff layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions
  2. Capacity limits
  3. Service alterations, suspensions and/or facility closures
  4. Recommitment of resources
  5. Compensation changes

We’ve already begun highlighting these issues, and over the next week we’ll continue to offer practical tips for more of them, along with specific examples of ways healthcare providers are handling the issues. It will help you go from preparing for everything to preparing for the right thing.

Dan Schlacter