Throughout many economic downturns it has commonly been stated that healthcare is “safe.” The logic behind this was people always get sick or hurt and need medical care. COVID-19 has turned that theory upside down. As the threat of coronavirus ramped up, hospitals, health systems and private practices heavily reduced non-emergency services to prepare for COVID patients. This reduction in services has dramatically impacted how these organizations function.
Americans Delaying Medical Care
Not only has the reduction in services hurt healthcare providers, but many patients are delaying medical care because of the pandemic, as well. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 48% of Americans said they or a family member delayed care, and 11% of them said the condition worsened as a result of the delay.(1) Additionally, visits to emergency departments dropped by 38% in March and April.(4)
Both Chicago and New York reported a 30% drop in 911 calls. This is the lowest call volume they’ve had in years. The dramatic reduction in 911 calls signals people’s willingness to go without care for potentially life-threatening situations. Postponing healthcare will quite possibly lead to a surge in hospitalizations for chronic conditions, which will strain an already stressed health system.(4)
What this Means for Healthcare
In California, thousands of medical professionals have been laid off, furloughed or taken pay cuts since March of this year.(2) According to federal labor statistics, healthcare job losses have been second only to those in the restaurant industry.(3) Since February, employment in healthcare is down by 797,000.(3)
The economics behind this state of affairs are simple: fewer patients and procedures means less money. According to a survey conducted by the California Medical Association, revenue at private practices has dropped by an average of 64% since March 1. Half of the practices have furloughed or laid off staff, 65% have reduced their hours, a third have instituted pay cuts and 11% have closed temporarily.(2)
Healthcare Changes we can Expect
At Patagonia Health, we firmly believe telehealth is here to stay. Especially with relaxed regulations and the ability to collect payments for virtual visits. Beyond telehealth, we might also see healthcare changes, such as:
- Screening for infection symptoms prior to appointments
- Barriers between patients and providers or staff
- Social distancing and restricted visitation
- Longer appointment times and fewer appointments
- More electronic forms and paperwork
- Waiting in cars, rather than waiting rooms(5)
Public Health Workers, We’re Here for You.
We know county local health department staff are on the frontlines of finding answers about COVID-19. As an Electronic Health Record provider focused on public health, we understand the importance of your work. Thank you, healthcare heroes! If there is any way that we can be a resource to you during this time, please reach out to us today.