Resuming healthcare procedures comes with new set of concerns

As some states reopen businesses and more Americans will resume visiting their doctors, clinicians are concerned about a second wave of COVID-2 infections, according to a survey of clinical leaders from Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

The survey asked 50 clinician leaders at health systems, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers about their top concerns and the impact that deferred elective medical procedures has had on their healthcare organizations during the pandemic.

In April, elective procedures plummeted and was only a fraction of the volume seen in the same month last year. For most (82%), the top concern was another outbreak in resuming elective procedures.

Clinical leaders were also concerned about low patient demand (54%) and having adequate supplies of materials, medications, equipment or testing (50%).

"Consumer confidence will be key to reopening,” David Betts, principal at Deloitte Consulting, said in a statement. “However, industry players might be underestimating how much consumers are driving this dynamic and potentially underinvesting in understanding consumer sentiment in their markets.”

As healthcare organizations reopen for other procedures, they will have to take these concerns into account with more precautions and prevention measures. For example, all organizations in the survey said they were taking steps, such as implementing virtual health for non-procedure visits. Most (88%) said they were implementing additional cleaning and disinfecting measures, training or retraining staff on infection control procedures (80%), acquisition of PPE (94%) and developing internal (92%) and external (70%) communications strategies.

“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,” Betts said. “This whole process of reopening may be more complicated and take longer than we think." 

Further, leaders were worried about their supply chains, with 74% citing concerns about inadequate testing capabilities, 68% concerned about shortages of personal protective equipment and 58% concerned about shortages of other medical and surgical supplies.

Still, survey respondents expected patient volumes to return to pre-COVID-19 levels within three months.