Deloitte: Elective Healthcare Volume Could be Down for Up to Six Months

During the first two weeks of May 2020, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed 50 clinical leaders at health systems, hospitals, and ambulatory surgery centers to understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on deferred elective medical procedures at their organizations, as well as potential paths forward as the country looks to reopen.

The survey found that elective procedure volume in April 2020 was only a fraction of the volume seen in April 2019 (16%) and that clinical leaders’ biggest concern about resuming those procedures is the possibility of another outbreak or a second wave of the virus (82%).

With those concerns in mind, 88% of the leaders reported that their organizations are implementing a variety of measures including virtual health for non-procedure visits — an uncommon practice prior to the COVID-19 outbreak — but still lack the testing capabilities they need to safely resume procedures.

While the potential for another outbreak topped the list of concerns for leaders in considering resuming elective procedures (82%), respondents also cited low patient demand (54%) and having adequate supply of materials, medications, equipment or testing (50%). Clinical leaders also reported concerns specific to their supply chains, including inadequate testing capabilities (74%), not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) (68%) and shortages of other medical and surgical supplies (58%).

On average, clinical leaders expect their elective procedure volumes to be back to pre-COVID-19 levels in three months, and estimates range from two to six months. With that timeframe in mind, all organizations surveyed reported taking steps to mitigate their key concerns.

Notably, nearly all leaders said their organizations have implemented or plan to use virtual health for non-procedure visits. According to data from the forthcoming “2020 Deloitte Survey of US Physicians,” only 5% of surgical specialists used video-visit capabilities in their practice prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

“Consumer confidence will be key to reopening. However, industry players might be underestimating how much consumers are driving this dynamic and potentially underinvesting in understanding consumer sentiment in their markets. Furthermore, 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. This whole process of reopening may be more complicated and take longer than we think,” said David Betts, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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