How hospitals can make up for billions in lost surgical revenues — 4 takeaways from a live discussion

COVID-19 sapped the U.S. health system of $7.8 to $11.6 billion in revenue over the span of four weeks due to the suspension of elective procedures, according to estimates from the healthcare consulting firm Surgical Directions. As elective procedures resume, recouping this lost revenue will require healthcare leaders to strengthen their organization's relationship with both clinicians and patients.

How to recapture delayed surgical revenue was the subject of a May 26 webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Surgical Directions.

The speakers were:

  • Lee Hedman, executive vice president of Surgical Directions
  • Joshua Miller, MD, physician managing director of Surgical Directions

Here are four key takeaways from the webinar:

1. COVID-19 brings change. It's inarguable healthcare will be different because of COVID-19, Ms. Hedman said. Clinicians and patients are embracing telemedicine, procedural changes that used to be heavily-debated are being rolled-out and altered in real-time, and surgeries are migrating to ambulatory surgery centers to prevent infection and lower costs.

2. Communicate safety. Hospital leaders need to ensure patients feel safe when they come in for care. Because of fears related to the virus, patients are delaying care even when it's urgent. Emergency room volumes dipped between 40 to 70 percent at health systems across the U.S.

"Hospitals need to work today to make patients feel comfortable," Ms. Hedman said. "Communicate with them so they feel like they're safe when they come to the hospital. … As we look to clinical outcomes, we need to really focus on communication. We can't overcommunicate to our patients and their families."

3. Cost-management should be front and center. While some surgical revenue will be lost permanently, hospitals can change operations and capitalize on the revenue that can be recovered. Dr. Miller cited a Moody's report which stated cumulatively hospitals would need to reduce costs by between $130 million to $1 billion to maintain a four percent profit margin, depending on the size of the organization. Hospital administrators must examine fixed costs and find ways to lower them.

4. Patients and providers are in this together. COVID-19 is a disruptive force that will take a coordinated effort to recovery from. To do this healthcare facilities have to realize the importance of patients and clinicians. "The bottom line is r hospitals and ASCs have to strengthen their relationship with both surgeons and patients," Dr. Miller said. "Those are the strategic partners for the hospitals now. It won't be the insurance carriers going forward."

View a copy of this webinar here. Learn more about Surgical Directions here.


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