Patient Input Limited in Non-Urgent Care Access Planning

Patient Input Limited in Non-Urgent Care Access Planning

Only 36 percent of healthcare organizations beginning the non-urgent care access process have consulted with healthcare consumers about the best way to do so, according to a new Deloitte survey.


The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed more than 50 clinical leaders at hospitals, health systems, and clinics, revealing plans to invest in virtual health and telehealth consultations. The survey also showed plans to improve cleaning and infection control procedures as organizations ramp up non-urgent care.


This could prove a tough road ahead for healthcare organizations, most of which postponed elective surgeries in an effort to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus. Postponed procedures kept patients and providers, both of whom could potentially be COVID-positive, socially distanced, cutting the risk of infection.


All said, survey respondents reported their elective procedure volume and access at 16 percent of where it was last year.


As parts of the nation have begun to flatten the curve, medical facilities are currently reopening — or at least preparing to reopen — for non-urgent and elective surgeries and procedures.


And they are doing so with the knowledge that healthcare will not look the same as it did before the pandemic.


Eighty-two percent of clinical leaders are primarily concerned with facing another COVID-19 surge or second-wave outbreak. To mitigate that concern, most organizations are working to support their previous care delivery models to keep patients at a safe distance.


With most leaders predicting it will take up to six months to fully reinstate elective procedures, they working toward different care strategies to meet patient needs. Eighty-eight percent said they have implemented virtual care to help connect patients with providers, while another 10 percent said they planned to do so.


This comes in contrast to years past, when as few as 5 percent of specialty surgeons engaged patients using virtual care technologies.


Eighty-eight percent of organizations plan to ramp up their cleaning procedures, while 80 percent are retraining staff about infection control strategies.


Ninety-four percent of organizations are stocking up on personal protective equipment (PPE) ahead of reopening, while 92 percent are building out their internal communication strategies. Another 70 percent are building up external communication strategies.


Notably, consulting patient healthcare consumers is only a part of reopening plans for 36 percent of surveyed organizations, the report showed. According to David Betts, a principle with Deloitte, this may be a misstep for healthcare organizations.


“Consumer confidence will be key to reopening,” Betts said in a statement. “However, industry players might be underestimating how much consumers are driving this dynamic and potentially underinvesting in understanding consumer sentiment in their markets.”


A deeper dive into organization concerns ahead of reopening show a complex process. In addition to apprehension about a second wave of COVID-19 infections, 54 percent of organizations are wary about patients actually being interested in accessing an elective procedure.


Fifty percent are worried about having an adequate amount of medications and supplies, 74 percent about having adequate testing capabilities, and 68 percent about having enough PPE.


As healthcare organizations continue to reopen their doors for non-urgent procedures and elective surgeries, they will have to redouble on their efforts to mitigate those challenges.


A reopening process will only be successful if it can engender patient trust; after all, if a patient doesn’t believe she will be safe, she will not visit, regardless of effective patient safety standards.


This could prove a tough go for organizations that still harbor fears that they do not have adequate supplies and resources.


“If the primary concern is a second wave, health systems are going to have to be extra diligent about testing, social distancing and infection control and this will create additional steps and inefficiencies to get back to full productivity,” Betts explained. “This whole process of reopening may be more complicated and take longer than we think.”



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