While hospitals and health systems around the world have surprised all by stepping up in unprecedented ways, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on not just the economy, but also the healthcare industry.
Below are the effects that the virus has had on the healthcare industry:
1. Revenue Cuts
The healthcare industry has faced a sharp cut in revenues as hospitals have canceled non-emergency procedures to conserve PPE. This has led to hospitals struggling to meet necessary costs as more and more people opt for telehealth, avoid coming into the hospitals, and cancel their previous appointments. Hospitals now have to incur additional costs of drugs, medicines, and equipment such as hospital beds and ventilators to meet the demand for services.
Increased labor costs as doctors work overtime have led to pay cuts and layoffs for healthcare providers who are seen as redundant. COVID-19 has also bought light to the large gap present between spending on healthcare and spending on public health infrastructure.
2. Risk of Malpractice
After witnessing a surge in the COVID-19 patients, many physicians and nurses who had been released of their duties or started to pursue alternate careers were deployed back to emergency departments. This increased the risk of malpractice as these physicians did not receive any healthcare-related training, nor were they trained to deal with intensive care.
3. A Surge in Other Diseases
Due to the risk of contracting COVID-19, there was a shift from in-person clinic visits to telehealth. While this is a great alternative to curb the spread of the virus, the payment reimbursement rate for telehealth has been lower. Since people know that the insurance agencies will not cover regular costs, they are skeptical about opting for telehealth.
Furthermore, as more and more people forego primary and specialty care visits, including surgical and dental procedures, there is an expected rise in illnesses.
The number of unemployed could rise to over 40 million. Specialized physicians are having a difficult time finding suitable jobs in the COVID-19 world as the healthcare industry continues to solely tend to the needs of COVID-19 patients. This leaves newly trained specialty physicians jobless as their talents go to waste.
What to Expect in 2021
Due to COVID-19, many healthcare professionals are expected to retire early or look for alternative careers. This is because they will experience heightened levels of burnout and exhaustion once the pandemic ends. The nation will then have to cope with a shortage of physicians, adding pressure on an already over-taxed workforce.
Furthermore, rural hospital systems will bear the brunt of the pandemic as they will close down at alarming rates. These hospitals are an essential safety net for rural societies. Without these, the country will see a rise in disparities as millions will be left without access to healthcare.
Healthcare might become more accessible to people as the world shifts towards digital healthcare options. This will be pivotal as the demand for virtual care increases. COVID-19 might even lead to technological innovations in the healthcare industry as robots start to replace humans, and drones are used for surveillance to ensure social distancing.