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Analysis

Resuming Elective Procedures? It's Complicated.

By John Commins  
   May 29, 2020

More than 80% of healthcare executives express concerns about a post-pandemic reopening with the threat of a second wave looming.

Resuming deferred procedures as the nation's healthcare sector emerges from the two-month-and-counting coronavirus pandemic lockdown will not be as simple as flipping a switch, a new survey suggests.

Deloitte Consulting, LLP, queried 50 executives from health systems, hospitals, and ambulatory surgery centers and found that, although April 2020 procedure volumes were only 16% of those seen in April 2019, the vast majority (82%) expressed unease about reopening too soon.

With the threat of a second wave of the pandemic looming, the executives said their organizations are taking steps to mitigate patient and caregiver safety concerns. Notably, 88% of respondents have implemented some form of virtual health, and 10% are planning to implement use of virtual health for non-procedure visits.

Pre-pandemic surveys from Deloitte found that only 5% of surgical specialists used video visits in their practice.

"If the primary concern is a second wave, health systems are going to have to be extra diligent about testing, social distancing and infection control and this will create additional steps and inefficiencies to get back to full productivity," said Deloitte Principal David Betts. "This whole process of reopening may be more complicated and take longer than we think." 

Even with the tremendous backlog created by the pandemic lockdown, executives don't expect to see elective procedures return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two to six months. In part, that is owing to patient unease about the risks of returning to healthcare venues.

More than half (54%) of respondents cited low patient demand as another big roadblock for reopening, and 50% cited an inadequate supply of materials, medications, equipment, or testing.

Clinical leaders also reported concerns about supply chains, including inadequate testing capabilities (74%), not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) (68%) and shortages of other medical and surgical supplies (58%).

Other fully or partially implemented steps include: additional cleaning and disinfecting measures (88%); training or retraining staff on infection control procedures (80%); acquisition of PPE (94%); and developing internal (92%) and external (70%) communications strategies. Only 36% have begun measuring consumer sentiment.  

“This whole process of reopening may be more complicated and take longer than we think.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Executives don't expect to see elective procedures return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two to six months.

More than half (54%) of respondents cited low patient demand as another big roadblock for reopening.

50% cited an inadequate supply of materials, medications, equipment, or testing.


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