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During the summer of 2020, Definitive Healthcare polled healthcare leaders ranging from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries to healthcare IT, consulting, provider organizations, and more. These professionals shared how they felt COVID-19 would most affect the larger healthcare industry through 2020 and beyond. Here are the trends that commonly emerged.

Hospital revenue loss due to COVID-19 tops list of respondent concerns

Several problems have developed due to the delay of elective surgeries that CMS recommended in March 2020. Elective surgeries are a significant source of revenue for hospitals. Postponing these surgeries means that hospitals took a substantial and unavoidable revenue hit.

Over one-third of survey respondents believe the loss of hospital revenue because of delayed and reprioritized elective surgeries will have the greatest impact on the healthcare industry in the coming years. 

Of the following trends, which do you think will have the greatest impact on the healthcare industry in the year ahead?

 

While the national recommendation for delaying elective surgeries has since been lifted, there are larger consequences that healthcare leaders know will continue to plague facilities for some time.

Hospitals will continue to cope with consequences of delayed care

Another equally concerning issue is the postponing of essential care. Patients with chronic diseases who avoided receiving care during the COVID pandemic are likely to have inadvertently worsened their conditions. By delaying care, patients ran the risk of turning what otherwise might have been a preventable ailment into a complex, more costly situation.

On top of that, since much of the nation’s patient population was delaying care at approximately the same time, healthcare facilities must now deal with massive care backlogs that may take years to deplete.

As providers chip away at these backlogs, they also need to contend with more significant staffing shortages due to both professional fatigue and COVID-19 infections among physicians and administration. Healthcare professionals have been under incredible stress as the country battles this viral outbreak, and many facilities were struggling with staffing shortages even before the pandemic began. If just one provider within a care facility contracts COVID-19, it can have a drastic impact on workflow—further delaying the attention these backlogs demand.

Telehealth most likely to help with chronic disease management

It’s no secret that telehealth use exploded during our time in quarantine. Medical claims data shows that telehealth use increased by as much as 4000 percent due to COVID-19. What may be less apparent, however, is the potential permanence of these remote practices. When asked which telehealth use cases had the greatest staying power for the remainder of 2020, over 50 percent of healthcare leaders agreed that routine care for chronic conditions would be most likely to withstand the test of time.

In what area do you believe telehealth will have the most staying power?

 

Though chronic disease patients may avoid in-person visits to evade COVID-19, telehealth visits potentially allow them to receive essential care in a safe capacity.

Patients with chronic conditions should maintain regular preventative care visits with their care teams. As hospitals struggle to address their delayed care backlogs while also fighting against staffing shortages, patients can contribute to providers' financial recovery.

Time is saved because patients aren’t idling in waiting rooms, reducing the unnecessary physical contact that increases the risk of viral infection. 

Increased adoption of telehealth translates to greater provider certainty that most patients in queue for treatment are definitively in need of critical in-person attention.