The Impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems – Part 1 The current reality
COVID-19 is devastating businesses worldwide. Not least of all healthcare. I have been speaking with healthcare executives on the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems. The impact is deep and far-ranging.
The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems
COVID-19 is financially catastrophic in the short term. Due to the acuity of COVID patients, labor costs are high. Traditionally high revenue visits, like Surgery, are practically non-existent. Elective surgeries are canceled until this crisis is over.
Healthcare systems have had to cut elective procedures, ER visits other than COVID-19 are down, and outpatient flow is significantly lower. I have heard reports of 30-60% revenue drops in the last month.
This is compounded by the cost of caring for COVID-19 patients. The average length of stay in US hospitals is 4.5 days. COVID-19 patients remain in the hospital for two weeks or even longer.
In the words of one hospital executive:
“Much of our traditional business has dried up. We’ve closed most of our outpatient services cardiac rehab, respiratory rehab and physical therapy. Elective surgeries closed.
This is two-fold, to reduce the spread of COVID and because the patients simply went away. They stopped coming to the hospital unless they had an emergency. They self-selected out.
There are still patients without COVID but far fewer of them. It is almost like we have two hospitals.
The old one, albeit much smaller, and a new one for COVID-19. Managing the COVID side is taking everybody’s attention.”
The economic impact has prompted some healthcare systems to furlough staff, reduce headcount, or ask staff to take a pay cut. It’s like laying off troops or asking them to take a pay cut in the middle of a war.
In part 2, we review how to build your Post-COVID-19 growth strategy around.
As a leader, maintaining morale and helping staff with their anxiety is a newfound skill. Managing their fear is a major challenge.
“Every time you walk into the hospital the fear is palpable. With everyone wearing masks there are no smiles, just fear in their eyes.
We spend much of our time trying to keep our staff safe and uninfected in addition to delivering excellent care. I have members on my non-clinical team that refuse to walk into the hospital. It goes beyond concern and into outright fear.”
Virtual care includes telehealth, using AI chatbots to triage patients, remote patient monitoring, and home-testing.
Healthcare systems fall into two camps. Those who have been moving to virtual care for several years and those who are scrambling to move to virtual care right now.
The first group is delivering virtual care at scale and can provide as many telehealth visits in a month as they had in a year. The latter group is struggling to catch up.
“All my CIO peers are scrambling to get telehealth visits running for many more providers than before. Physicians who never wanted to deliver care via computer are not fully embracing the idea. After getting over the learning curve I expect they won’t want to give up.
The current benefit of telehealth is keeping patients out of facilities where they are at risk of infection.
The future benefits include convenience for the patients and economic benefit for the providers.
Physicians can see many more low acuity patients using telehealth while they save the office visits for the high revenue patients.
Once over the implementation and learning curve, virtual care costs less and healthcare systems will have to shift to this model out of necessity.
Virtual Care is going to be a huge opportunity for healthcare technology vendors coming out of this crisis.
In the Post-Covid-19 Strategy Guide, we show you how you can take action. You can download planning tools here.
Remote everything else
Like every other workplace across the country, hospitals manage much of the non-clinical part of their operations virtually.
And like every large organization, they struggle with how to do that.
“We were slow to let our staff work from home even though it was safer. Why? Because we didn’t know how to monitor and manage them. These are problems to be solved by their managers.
On that staff side, we needed to train them on how to be successful doing remote work. I believe we needed micro-learning courses for both how to work remote work and how to manage them.”
It remains to be seen if healthcare will continue to embrace remote workers. Most patient care requires hands-on or in-person interactions.
This has been the traditional management style of healthcare. As nurses have to be physically in the hospital, the attitude has been that so should everyone else.
Training new skills in a hurry
Healthcare systems have to train more people with new skills in less time.
Existing staff are tasked with new job skills, and additional staff is being brought in to tackle the challenging situation.
The situation’s urgency is forcing hospitals to rethink getting staff up and productive in a much shorter timeframe.
“We need to figure out how to onboard staff much more efficiently. We need to bring new nurses into our EMR systems and teach them how to get medications out of electronic cabinets and scanned prior to administration.
I have 25 agency nurses and respiratory therapist coming in on Monday, and I have to get them on the floors quickly.
These are seasoned care-givers so they are brining experience at other facilities and using other systems. How do we take somebody as a nursing student and turn them into a set of helping hands? We need their support and the experience they will gain working side-by-side bed-side nurses will benefit us both.”
Supply Chain Flexibility
The supply chain managers have become McGivers during the crisis. They have to quickly source materials, devices, and supplies in a very difficult market.
One of the toughest lessons from the COVID-19 crisis is that it is showing up the challenges.
Coming out of this crisis, healthcare systems will need to better understand the supply chain and the opportunities to be more responsive when needs arise.
The Power of the Network
Adversity often creates positive disruption and fosters greater collaboration. In large healthcare systems, the crisis is creating new opportunities to leverage the power of the network.
As a health care network – we are getting better at understanding the value of the network – from supply maximization JIT, to onboarding staff, training support, shifting patient care models depending on location and needs. The ability to share lessons learned and what different people are trying has enabled folks to feel a little more supported from a leadership stand point.
COVID-19 and Impact on Cybersecurity
Last but not least, security has become one of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare. Cybersecurity has become an even bigger challenge.
Phishing and ransomware threats have exploded during the crisis as bad actors exploit the pandemic.
As healthcare shifts to virtual care, this exposes the vulnerabilities of newer technologies like video conferencing, remote monitoring devices, etc. It is a priority issue not just for the IT team but also for all CEOs.
“Rolling out a large number of remote uses and virtual technologies has increased my vulnerabilities. My CEO continues to voice his concerns about cyber security and wants assurances we have not left ourselves open to being breached. My security team is working long hours to protect our patient’s information and all our other assets.”
In the next post on the Impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems, we will focus on the future, the trends that will shape healthcare technology coming out of the crisis, and what you can do to create a growth strategy.
This includes a step-by-step guide to creating your post-COVID-19 strategic plan.
You can read other posts on managing through the crisis here.
Other Insightful Links:
- How the COVID-19 Has Affected Sales
- How to manage Through Corona Virus Crisis
- Post Covid-19 Strategic Planning Guide
- Creating Post COVID-19 Growth Strategy