US hospitals lost $22.3B delaying elective surgeries, study estimates

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The cost of halting major elective surgery during the pandemic is estimated to be $22.3 billion for U.S. hospitals, according to a new study published in the Annals of Surgery. 

Last spring, many states ordered hospitals to pause elective surgeries to ensure they had staff and capacity to care for an influx of COVID-19 patients. Researchers sought to quantify the financial hit from those cancellations in the U.S. from March 2020 to May 2020. 

For the study, researchers used data from the nationwide inpatient sample to forecast revenue and elective surgery demand. They also conducted a sensitivity analysis to calculate how long it would take to recover the revenue losses.

The researchers found that the median recovery time to recoup lost revenue was 12 to 22 months. They also found that rural and urban nonteaching hospitals may face more financial risk amid the pandemic.

"Strategies to mitigate the predicted revenue loss of $22.3B due to major elective surgery cessation will vary with hospital-specific supply-demand equilibrium. If patient demand is slow to return, hospitals should focus on marketing of services; if hospital capacity is constrained, efficient capacity expansion may be beneficial," the researchers concluded. 

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