by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | September 11, 2020
Loss of hospital revenue from delayed and reprioritized elective surgeries is the number one concern among healthcare stakeholders, predicting it to have the greatest impact on the industry over the next few years.
That’s what one-third told Definitive Healthcare in a poll the information service provider conducted over the summer. From medical device manufacturers to providers and healthcare IT companies, respondents also expressed concerns over the postponement of essential care, backlogs and staffing shortages and the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have in 2020 and beyond.
“From closures to furloughs, it will take a number of years to recover from that loss of capacity,” Todd Bellemare, vice president of professional services for Definitive Healthcare, told HCB News. “Already, Definitive Healthcare's platform has tracked 75 healthcare facility closures, most of which are temporary due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but these could turn into permanent facility closures later if patients continue to avoid hospitals due to the virus. Rural hospitals have been hit hard as well. In addition to the trend of closures, the furloughs of healthcare providers will certainly impact the quality of care patients see over the next few years.”
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Elective surgeries declined as much as 95% in certain areas of the country, with the Northeast and Western regions of the country seeing the highest impacts, according to Definitive Healthcare’s all-payer claims data.
Furloughs are expected to result in fewer specialists and less availability of support services that will impact the ability of patients to receive timely care. They are expected to lead to more ER visits, which can be an added drain on both time and revenue for providers. Rural hospitals are expected to take the brunt of the damage, with a large number already closing even before COVID. This will undermine care in underserved communities, which are composed of older individuals with higher rates of chronic conditions and a mix of insurance coverage rates.
Another concern is the postponement of essential care, with patients suffering from chronic diseases opting to avoid care out of fear of contracting COVID-19. This choice to not seek treatment could inadvertently worsen their condition and turn what otherwise might have been a preventable disease into one that requires a complex and costly procedure.
As much of the country’s patient population delayed care at approximately the same time, healthcare facilities now face massive backlogs that could take years to deplete, all while contending with even greater significant staffing shortages due to professional fatigue and COVID-19 infections among physicians and administration. If just one provider in a care facility contracts COVID-19, it can have grave consequences on workflow and delay needed attention to backlog demand, according to Definitive Healthcare.