A survey of 50 clinical leaders at health systems, hospitals, and ambulatory surgery centers conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions explores how COVID-19 has impacted elective procedures.
According to the Deloitte survey, clinical leaders estimate that the elective procedure volume in April 2020 was only about 16% of usual volume. Many patients have opted to forgo these procedures due to the pandemic. The survey identifies the concerns that providers have about resuming elective procedures and how they’re addressing or planning to address those concerns as well as the concerns of their patients.
Will there be a second outbreak?
According to the surveyed clinical leaders, the biggest provider concern about resuming elective procedures is the chance of a second outbreak, with 82% of respondents citing it as a concern. 54% of respondents cite low patient demand, and 50% feel they don’t have enough medications, equipment, testing, or other supplies to resume elective procedures properly. Some supply and testing concerns are specific to the clinical leaders’ supply chains, such as inadequate testing capabilities (74%), not enough PPE (68%) and shortages of other medical and surgical supplies (58%).
Clinical leaders believe that it’ll take two to six months for their elective procedure volume to return to the level it was before COVID-19. In the meantime, many have begun taking or are planning to take steps to mitigate concerns. Nearly all respondents have been using or plan to use virtual visits for non-procedure visits, up from only 5% doing the same before COVID-19. Other steps clinical leaders are taking or plan to take are additional cleaning and disinfecting measures (88%), training or retraining staff on infection control procedures (80%), acquiring PPE (94%), and developing more internal (92%) and external (70%) communications strategies. 36% of clinical leaders have also begun measuring consumer sentiment and learning what their patients need to be comfortable going back to in-person medical care.
Is it safe to go back to the doctor?
While it may be OK for patients to put off certain elective procedures, many have been forgoing necessary care as well. Recently, we shared a post from our broker blog, AllWays Insider, about how often and why patients are delaying necessary care. Most patients deferring necessary care are doing so out of fear of COVID-19, and while some are utilizing virtual care instead, many are opting out of receiving care altogether. This even applies to serious medical conditions, as many patients express fear about being stuck in a hospital, isolated from friends and family, if they receive emergency care.
Local health care organizations are working to encourage patients to return to their providers for necessary care. For example, Mass General Brigham, the new name for Partners HealthCare, has introduced their Safe Care Commitment initiative, which includes daily employee screenings; increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning; and rearranging spaces to accommodate physical distancing and prevent transmission of infections. Mass General Brigham also created a short video encouraging patients not to put off necessary care.