The world was not ready when the pandemic struck us. Back in 2020, between March and July when the COVID-19 crisis first hit us, the US hospitals witnessed a ~35% drop in the number of surgeries. In 2021, the situation is still grim with 106 hospitals having postponed the elective procedures to handle COVID cases. The unprecedented health crisis has affected every aspect of our lives including seasonality and elective surgeries as those affected with COVID-19 are treated on priority. The non-urgent nature of these surgeries meant that they were always going to play second fiddle to the burning urgency that came with COVID cases.
Let’s take a quick look at how this crisis has affected the seasonality and elective surgeries:
1. The onset of the pandemic
When the pandemic caused massive chaos the first sector that took a major hit was healthcare. The rising cases affected the elective procedures. As a result, only emergency cases that needed the surgeries were considered, the rest were on hold. Since very little was known about the new COVID-19 back then, several protocols like COVID screening became a part of the cases that needed immediate attention. This in turn led to the slowing down of the entire process.
The situation caused the deferral of millions of elective procedures, not just a few hundreds. In the US alone, the backlog of total joint and spine surgery cases will rise to million by mid-2022, which will take ~15 months to clear up the backlogs. The cataract backlogs will see a rise too and might reach a backlog of 1.6 million cataract procedures by 2022. Orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery procedures were the most affected. Shortage of healthcare professionals owing to COVID-19 crisis, non-availability of beds, decreased operating room capacity are some of the barriers that affected the elective procedures
The elective procedures have taken a major hit during the seasons like Christmas and summer holidays due to the pandemic. In the pre-pandemic period, most hospitals and healthcare staff would rely on the historical data to predict the seasonal demand in order to prepare themselves for the same. Even the demand for medical equipment and other medical products was forecasted using the historical data which is now disrupted due to the COVID crisis, becoming a primary concern. Since we have been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis for a long time, the data for the future forecasts of medical trends, revenue, and other medical expenses in regards to the seasonality will not be available.
4. The way forward
Individual health practitioners will face greater challenges as compared to mainstream hospitals in regard to elective procedures. Also, job loss and other financial challenges faced by the end consumers will affect the demand for elective surgeries. On the other hand, hospitals are designing strategies to manage the huge backlogs of elective procedures that the healthcare system is set to witness in the post-pandemic world. Hence, digital tools are developed to capture and manage patient data that will bring down the overall waiting time.
5. How healthcare system manage this situation
While it is no secret that COVID-19 has put tremendous pressure on both the healthcare staff and the patient, it is necessary now more than ever to communicate with the patients that are seeking elective procedures. The healthcare system can make full utilization of the existing resource and gradually accommodate elective procedures to clear the pent-up demand. One way of doing so would be by using news and social data to find patterns in COVID cases and taking up elective patients during times of low covid cases.
So, this is how pandemic has affected the seasonality and elective surgeries in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. If you have queries or doubts, please connect with our representatives at Pipeline Medical and we will be glad to assist you.