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Hospital Leaders Expect Minimized Elective Procedures, Budget Constraints to Last Until 2021

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   July 16, 2020

A new Alexander Group Survey asked healthcare leaders about how they are planning for the long term amid COVID-19.

Recent findings from the Alexander Group, "COVID-19 Hospital Leadership Learnings & Future Planning" survey found that most hospital leaders don't expect elective procedures to reach 100% volume this year and budget constraints will continue into 2021. The survey asked C-suite executives, other hospital leaders, and hospital administrators across 35 states about how their hospitals are planning for opening up elective procedures, updating visitors to new policies, and anticipating their "long-term operational changes" due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital sizes ranged from 100 to 4,000 beds across 35 states. The survey was conducted between April 28 to May 15, 2020.

According to Alexander Group Healthcare Principals and co-survey authors Doug Beveridge and Craig Ackerman the biggest survey findings from the healthcare leaders included:

  • 73% of healthcare leaders don't expect elective procedure volume to reach 100% until 2021. "We thought the return to elective procedures was actually going to be faster than it turned out. I think to everyone's surprise, patients weren't as willing to come back as many had hoped. I think those two go hand in hand," Ackerman says.
  • To increase elective procedures, 63% of healthcare leaders say they plan to extend operating hours; 52% say they plan on staggering timing by procedure type; and 51% say they plan on increasing and/or introducing weekend procedures.
  • The survey also found that 90% of healthcare leaders say they "likely" or "very likely" expect "budget constraints to continue into 2021."
  • The utilization of telehealth was found to have the biggest long-term operational impact, with 55% of participants expecting "increased reliance on virtual vendor support" and interactions. "All of a sudden, telehealth [has] gone mainstream, and that's how hospitals and physicians are interacting a lot more with their patients," Ackerman tells HealthLeaders.

The Alexander Group suggests the following "action items and next steps" for hospitals and health systems during the COVID era:

  • Prepare for the long recovery ahead and "potential rebound" that affect the hospital or health system's revenue and profitability
  • Build up personal protection equipment reserves, as well as reserves for other essential supplies
  • Make sure patients are educated on "new hospital policies and safety regulations"
  • Utilize telehealth and other "digital channels" as a means to not only care for patients, but to also communicate with vendors and third parties for elective procedure support

A second survey is due to go out in August to gain updated perspectives.

"Things … are just constantly shifting," Beveridge says.

"The only thing predictable is the unpredictability of what's going on with COVID and some of the uncertainty in the environment," Ackerman says.

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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