Healthcare News & Insights

Preparing for a potential surge in deferred non-coronavirus care

The prioritization of creating capacity for coronavirus patients and preserving personal protective equipment (PPE) meant making the costly move of postponing elective procedures and preventive diagnostic services. Meanwhile, patients with chronic and acute conditions in need of care may be avoiding hospital settings to avoid contracting COVID-19. 

So far, health systems that have begun resuming procedures are reporting light volumes of non-COVID patients. However, in the coming months, when patients find they can no longer put off care, demand could potentially spike.

According to a FierceHealthCare report, a study being launched at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore is tracking the impact delays in care will have among dermatology cancer patients.

Tinglong Dai, an associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins University, predicted that pandemic-related postponements would lead to more acute episodes and longer lengths of stay. “They are potentially going to be more difficult procedures and more costly procedures,” he said.

The study could offer some insights into how health systems should respond to a sudden increase in patient demand. We’ll keep you posted.

Adequate beds, less cases

Before resuming elective procedures, check if your hospital has:

  • authorization from local and/or state health authorities
  • an appropriate number of available beds
  • the ability to quickly test patients for COVID-19
  • a steady two-week decline in COVID-19 cases in the local area
  • adequate PPE and staff
  • clearly distinct zones for COVID and non-COVID patients
  • signage that communicates cleaning and disinfecting processes to patients
  • a committee with surgery, anesthesia and nursing leaders to prioritize which patients need elective procedures, and
  • clear guidelines for when to reassess those patients’ health status.

A recent joint statement by the American Hospital Association and American College of Surgeons includes a potential roadmap for resuming elective procedures and offered guidance about when procedures should begin on an outpatient and inpatient basis.

The associations acknowledged that resumption of procedures called off due to COVID-19 could vary widely by region.

“When the first wave of this pandemic is behind us, the pent-up patient demand for surgical and procedural care may be immense and healthcare organizations, physicians and nurses must be prepared to meet this demand,” the statement said.

“Given the known evidence supporting healthcare worker fatigue and the impact of stress, can the facilities perform planned procedures without compromising patient safety or staff safety and well-being?”

If possible, hospitals and health systems should also consider using telemedicine – as well as nurse practitioners or physician assistants – for making preoperative patient evaluations.

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