Regional variations in patient volumes continue at hospitals across the U.S., but many returned to 2019 levels in June and July, according to a McKinsey & Company survey.
The management consulting firm surveyed leaders from 100 large private sector hospitals to determine how COVID-19 had affected hospital volumes and find out the expectations and implications for the coming years.
Nine survey findings:
1. Thirty-three percent of respondents predict orthopedic surgery demand will outweigh provider capacity in the next six months due to pent up demand, and 20 percent expect the same will happen for neurosurgery during that time frame.
2. In June 2021, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery outpatient volumes were down 2 percent compared to 2019. Plastic surgery volumes saw the biggest decrease (7 percent), while psychiatry saw the greatest increase (7 percent) for the same period.
3. Respondents expect patient volumes to grow throughout the second half of 2021, with volumes between 5 percent and 8 percent higher than in 2019 by 2022, according to the survey.
4. By 2023, respondents project outpatient volumes to be about 9 percent above 2019 levels.
5. Twenty percent of outpatient visits shifted to virtual care in 2020, but that declined to 15 percent in the second quarter of 2021, which is the rate that respondents expect to persist.
6. Family medicine (67 percent) and psychiatry (64 percent) are the specialties where virtual care is used most frequently, according to the survey. Orthopedic surgery weighed in at 24 percent and neurosurgery at 16 percent.
7. Seventy-nine percent of respondents reported a shift in orthopedic care to the outpatient setting, the highest of any specialty, according to the survey. Just eight percent of respondents reported a shift in neurosurgery procedures to the outpatient setting.
8. Respondents said workforce shortages and operating room capacity were the biggest challenges to increasing elective surgery volumes.
9. More than 50 percent of hospitals surveyed are expanding clinic hours to increase outpatient access, and about 30 percent report increasing physician productivity as a result of the pandemic.