Health systems balancing elective care, COVID-19 hospitalizations

Hospitals across the U.S. are working to care for more COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization without halting lucrative elective procedures, according to The Wall Street Journal.

After facing significant financial pressures from voluntary and state-mandated shutdowns this spring, U.S. hospitals are reluctant to again halt moneymaking elective procedures. Previous delays of elective procedures led to steep financial losses for many health systems and resulted in an average 30 percent to 40 percent revenue drop for nonprofit hospitals, according to Moody’s Investors Service. 

Amid the current resurgence of COVID-19 cases, fewer states are ordering broad shutdowns and are leaving elective procedure decisions up to hospitals. 

Hospital executives said that they have learned from previous surges to better manage capacity and avoid halting electives. They also said it is not as critical to halt surgeries to preserve personal protective gear and testing kits due to an increase in production of those supplies.

Advocate Aurora Health, which operates 16 Wisconsin hospitals, hasn’t postponed elective procedures despite a COVID-19 surge in the state, and that the system doesn’t have a fixed threshold for when it would postpone electives, Jeff Bahr, MD, chief Aurora medical group officer, told the Journal. 

Dr. Bahr said that the system is bringing nurses from Illinois to help in Wisconsin, and that it can transfer patients to its Illinois hospital if needed. 

“We are able to coexist in the midst of COVID,” Dr. Bahr said. 

To help make decisions on elective cases, HCA tracks local COVID-19 cases and hospital capacity rates, staffing levels and supplies. That data is then sent to corporate headquarters, where executives use experiences from surges across the country to inform decisions.

“The net effect of that is they are better able to manage capacity, and therefore, defer as long as possible these decisions to delay or to have to reschedule certain scheduled cases,” Mr. Foster told the Journal.

More articles on healthcare finance: 
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Hospitals fail to tell uninsured COVID-19 patients their bills are covered, NPR finds
Hospital groups urge Congress to further delay 2% Medicare payment cut


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