Elective Surgeries and the Delta Wave

August 24, 2021

Early vaccine successes and the hope for a potential end to the worst of the pandemic this summer diminished in the past few weeks as the new Delta variant emerged. In some parts of the country--notably areas like Texas, Louisiana, and Florida--hospital systems are once again overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

In order to preserve resources for the influx of COVID-19 patients, healthcare facilities in affected areas have had to postpone elective surgeries. Operating rooms are converted into makeshift intensive care units (ICUs) because they are relatively large spaces which already have ventilators in them. Also, surgeries require a lot of personal protective equipment (PPE) which needs to be preserved to care for COVID-19 patients.

Amongst the myriad challenges that physicians, healthcare facility administrators, and patients face against this new wave is the less reported issue of elective surgery backlogs. As patients suffering from the onslaught of COVID-19 fill hospital wards, it is elective surgeries which fall to the wayside. Even before the emergence of the new Delta wave, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery predicted elective surgeries to reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels within 7-16 months.

The majority of elective surgeries are anything but “elective”. These are surgeries which are planned in advance.The patient’s surgeon and their health insurance company have determined the patient medically requires the procedure.

Currently, there are patients who were expecting to receive a knee replacement, for example, but now have to wait an indefinite amount of time until they are able to receive care. Every step these patients take is excruciating because of the significant amount of cartilage loss in their knee.

Healthcare facilities in affected areas are now having to make the same difficult choice they had to last yearin order to help as many patients as they can. The decision to postpone elective surgeries is made even more difficult because hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers faced enormous financial challenges throughout the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimated losses greater than $300 billion in 2020 alone for healthcare institutions and Bloomberg data showed that four dozen hospitals entered bankruptcy or closed last year.

On average, surgeries account for about 60% of hospital revenue (and 100% of ambulatory surgery center revenue). Also, due to significant nursing shortages which require hospitals to pay ever increasing amounts to nurse contractors, hospitals are facing tremendous profitability headwinds.

Once this current wave subsides, the hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers which are able to recover faster from the COVID-19 profitability shock will be the ones who are able to perform more elective surgeries in the same amount of time. These will be the healthcare facilities that surgeons will turn to in order to get their backlogged patients the care they need faster.

What Opollo offers our customers is increased operating room suite efficiency (i.e., the ability to complete more surgeries in the same amount of time) WITHOUT the need for workflow changes which are time consuming to develop and difficult to implement and maintain.

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