The Patients Are Not Equal
As COVID-19 took over in the headlines, it also took over at many hospitals around the country. We saw a rise in the number of patients that were taken in and diagnosed with the virus, but there was an unexpected result as well. The rate of decline in-patient activity didn’t correlate with the rise on ‘per hospital basis’. In fact, the nation as a whole saw a decline, regardless of the number of COVID patients that were being treated in the same area or hospital.
People were likely afraid to go to a hospital for in-patient care and put themselves at an increased risk of being exposed to COVID. Even if that particular facility did not have a surge. In March, it was a slow decline, but according to a Washington Post analysis of smartphone data, it would be considered a crash by the time April rolled around.
Regardless of the impact that COVID had on a specific area with the number of cases, the effects of it could be felt far and wide. This was of course felt by the decrease from a lack of walk-in traffic, but also from canceled surgeries that were deemed elective or not critical. This means a tremendous financial loss to the healthcare facility, and also a surge of activity once things are clear. Managing both of those is not an easy feat, especially when it comes to the added and unknown factor of emergency patient care. With more than 1200 hospitals operating at a loss in two of the last five years, this isn’t a hit they are poised to take easily.
Add to this loss, is the increased expense in preparing for what may be a second wave of the pandemic when fall and winter arrive. Again, they must be prepared for the unknown.
We saw a loss of approximately 1.4 million healthcare jobs in April, according to a government report. The transition to tele-healthcare may mean that those jobs never return – but will the medical industry be able to keep up and support this new way of offering patient care? Will HIPAA have to change to meet these needs as well? Only time will tell, but we are watching – from a safe distance.