Even as there is a resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and governors walk back plans for reopening, hospital administrators and service line leaders are looking ahead to a time when volumes will return to pre-pandemic levels.
The gains of telehealth mean that in some ways, we might never get back to the old normal. But for procedures that cannot be done virtually—such as diagnostic and interventional cardiology, as well as cardiothoracic surgery—getting patients back in front of doctors is a priority.
COVID-19 has forced nearly half of patients to postpone care, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. It found that around one-third of those who put off treatment said they’d seek it within three months, and 10% said they would do it in four months to a year.
Inpatient and outpatient volumes continue to be impacted by the coronavirus, and certain clinical service lines have been hit harder than others, as reported by Rev Cycle Intelligence. According to updated data from Strata Decision Technology, hospitals saw an average decrease of 54.5 percent in patients during March and April as a result of the cancellation of elective procedures and other concerns during the COVID-19 crisis. Strata also reported that diagnostics fell by 60 percent, with diagnostic catheterizations down by 65 percent. Percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) declined by 44 percent.
The good news for cardiology is that the volume of cardiovascular procedures is expected to normalize by the fourth quarter of 2020, possibly returning to pre-COVID-19 volumes sooner than many other healthcare specialties. This is according to GlobalData, which estimates that nearly 97% of cardiovascular procedures are essential.
Overall, recovery is going to take a little more time. A new report from InCrowd, which specializes in healthcare market insights, says that COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. will last more than twice as long as previously estimated by frontline physicians in April, who are now anticipating August 2021 before a return to normalcy.
“There seems to be an acceptance of a new normal—at least until there’s a vaccine,” said Daniel S. Fitzgerald, CEO and president of InCrowd.