Kyin Lok, CEO of Dext Capital, discusses COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry. He provides an overview of the economic reality for healthcare providers and discusses their access to capital and shares an outlook for what the industry will face as it emerges from the pandemic.
We’ve seen the images and videos of our healthcare heroes battling the COVID-19 virus on the front lines. These first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital administrators knew they had the most important role to play in saving our country from this worldwide pandemic and preserving as many lives as possible. Our healthcare providers made incredible sacrifices, worked long hours, risked contracting the virus themselves, and they have to avoid their own family and friends by sleeping in hotels or in their own garage. Their commitment and sacrifice cannot be appreciated enough. Although their job is not yet complete with the legitimate risk of a second or third wave of this virus, there are some providers who have begun to look ahead to how they will begin the next stage of their difficult journey – stabilizing their own hospital or medical practice’s financial health.
Unlike the financial crisis, the healthcare community was not spared from this economic downturn. Although there will be plenty of public support and limited government stimulus, medical providers will need to take a hard look at the reality of how this event has impacted their lives. The investment in PPE (face masks, beds, ventilators), stoppage of non-elective procedures and closure of their practices partially or entirely will have consequences for their ability to manage their debts.
Healthcare providers will need government assistance, lender flexibility and community involvement in order to return to normal business operations. The recent passing of phases one through four and likely phase five-plus of the government stimulus and intervention will help to ease the financial pain. As of today, the various federal assistance plans include payroll protection plans, $117 billion for hospitals/vets and $75 billion for additional hospital relief. How we ensure this money (with hopefully more to come) is allocated in a timely and effective manner to those hospitals that need the money most will be immensely important to the stabilization and strengthening of our healthcare community over the next few months.
Access to Capital
As if the virus wasn’t a big enough issue, access to capital has become much more difficult and will likely continue to be a challenge in the months ahead. Banks have pulled back from lending to anyone other than their top customers leaving a huge gap in support to hospitals and medical practices of all sizes Much as was the case in 2008, this crisis reinforces the need to diversify lender options. Independent lenders (Non-Banks) who were not well capitalized or focused their lending on certain impacted markets such as hospitality and leisure quickly found themselves no longer being able to lend money. Brokers can no longer rely on their secondary market funders to buy their deals. Only lenders who have stable access to capital and the specific industry expertise to target the right markets in healthcare can continue to be an active lender in the market.
At Dext, we were able to not just be “open for business” but we became a lender of choice to many medical providers in need and medical device manufacturers. We developed innovative and timely financial solutions such as short-term rentals, PPE financing and sale lease backs that provided the healthcare community with the ability to acquire necessary equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and the liquidity to continue operations.
Lenders need to take a long-term view of the healthcare community and understand that doctors, nurses and first responders will always be an integral part of our society. They have become an even more essential service that requires significant reinforcement and bolstering for future outbreaks.
Healthcare will continue to take center stage as we continue to battle this pandemic and the anticipated return of viruses. There will be more robust discussions of universal healthcare and basic universal income, particularly as we head into the elections this year. Regardless of the outcome of these debates and the passage of various new policies, the strengthening of our healthcare system and the preparation for future pandemic risks will be widely supported by our politicians and our citizens. There will be mounting pressure to ensure each state and its healthcare providers have adequate access to necessary equipment and supplies, as well as tighter control of the supply chain by the government.
The healthcare community will begin to prepare for life after COVID-19 and the gradual re-opening of hospitals and practices. Non-elective procedures, check-ups and other treatments that have been postponed will likely now be jammed into the second half of this year in order to comply with insurance plans. Healthcare providers will turn their attention to addressing their equipment purchases that were delayed or de-prioritized. Additionally, new equipment needs will emerge in order to protect patients such as testing devices, telemedicine and safe waiting areas for patients.
Healthcare providers will reassess their ability to borrow and their current lender’s ability to lend under reasonable terms. Diversification of lenders will be key. Having multiple borrowers was a valuable lesson from the financial crisis. However, since the healthcare community was largely immune from the 2008 bank failures and disruption, its members may not have diversified its lender base as well as other industry sectors have. Seeking a new lender can take time and can be more challenging during times such as these. It’s prudent to have multiple lenders who know the healthcare industry and developing existing relationships with equipment suppliers can protect the medical provider from out of market terms. A good finance partner should be able to make introductions to reliable manufacturers and suppliers who can deliver necessary and timely equipment to the hospital or medical practice.
More opportunities will emerge for independent lessors and brokers in the near term due to the impact of COVID-19. As a result, independent lessors and brokers will play an increasing role to fill the temporary gaps in the financial market’s ability to ensure adequate access to capital to the healthcare community. Independents will also lead the charge for the innovative products and custom structures that are the best suited for the ever-changing needs of the healthcare community.
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