News | Productivity and Process Improvement

Healthcare News of Note: Halting elective surgeries in early 2020 cost hospitals $22.3 billion

News | Productivity and Process Improvement

Healthcare News of Note: Halting elective surgeries in early 2020 cost hospitals $22.3 billion

  • Revenue loss from U.S.hospitals pausing elective surgeries was consistent across all hospital types. 
  • Healthcare providers want Biden administration to work on reducing drug prices and to push for ACA expansion.
  • New Medscape survey indicates female physicians reported suffering from more burnout than reported by their male counterparts.

With all the industry news published this past week, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Here are three recent stories that deserve the attention of healthcare finance professionals.

1. U.S. hospitals suffer $22.3 billion revenue loss due to halted elective surgeries

A Healthcare Dive article reported: “U.S. hospitals lost more than $20 billion from suspending elective surgeries over three months at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic's onset in this country, according to an article published recently in the Annals of Surgery.”

Healthcare Dive continues: “The Annals of Surgery article found that the revenue loss from halted electives was consistent across all hospital types, but existing trends for urban non-teaching facilities and those in rural areas put them at increased financial risk.

“To recover volumes, hospitals should consider hiring more staff, scheduling procedures on nights and weekends and directing marketing efforts toward assuaging patient fears about returning to get care.

“The research adds to growing evidence that larger health systems with access to capital and other resources are likely better able to weather the financial strain that came from pandemic-related disruptions.”

Additional resources

An HFMA Expert-Reviewed article by Ezra Mehlman, MBA, and Steve Lefar published in June provided additional insight on how hospitals and health systems can recover from the impact of canceled procedures.

2. Survey: Healthcare providers want Biden administration to work on reducing drug prices and to push for ACA expansion

A Jan. 29 article by Modern Healthcare reporter Alex Kacik states, “The Biden administration should prioritize reducing drug prices and expanding the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers said in a new survey.

“More than 30% of 140 executives polled in mid-January recommended that the Biden administration focus on reducing drug prices, while nearly 25% advocated expanding the ACA, according to an Advis survey. Closing the Medicaid gap and establishing a public option were lower on the wish list, with implementing a Medicare for All program garnering the least support.”

In addition, the Advis survey found:

  •  The most likely of President Joe Biden’s proposed healthcare initiatives to be enacted would be adding a Medicare-like public health insurance option (50% of respondents) and allowing consumers to purchase prescription drugs from other countries (nearly 37%). Enhancing scrutiny for healthcare mergers and acquisitions came in a close third (almost 35%).
  • When asked whether the new administration would address surprise billing and if so, how, nearly 26% of respondents did not believe the administration and Congress would do so. Of those who thought the administration and Congress would address the issue, a plurality of respondents (37%) selected “Require healthcare providers to make all service costs publicly available and searchable.”

3. Medscape survey: Female physicians report higher than usual burnout in 2020

 “Medscape surveyed more than 12,000 physicians in 29 specialties from Aug. 30 through Nov. 5 to gauge their mental and emotional well-being during the pandemic,” according to a Healthcare Dive article by Hailey Mensik. “While women have consistently reported higher burnout rates than men in Medscape's surveys, this year's disparities were greater than usual, it noted.

“And physicians from different specialties reported higher rates of burnout this year than in the past,” Mensik wrote. “Those in critical care, rheumatology and infectious diseases reported the highest rates in 2020, compared with those in urology, neurology, nephrology, endocrinology and family medicine in 2019.”

Here are some additional results from the ‘Death by 1,000 cuts’: Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2021:

  • 51% of female physicians responding to the survey indicated they were burned out compared with 36% of male physicians
  • 79% of physicians surveyed indicate their burnout began before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The top three causes of burnout as cited by physicians were:

           1. Too many bureaucratic tasks (58%)

           2. Long work hours and lack of respect from nearly everyone they work with (37%)

           3. Insufficient compensation/reimbursement (32%)

Bonus content from HFMA

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor with HFMA in Westchester, Illinois.


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