The long-term effects of COVID-19 on community hospitals: 3 leaders discuss

Embedded in the community with an in-depth knowledge of their patient population, community hospitals are an integral part of the U.S healthcare system. But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated financial and operational challenges facing the hospitals, leaving many vulnerable. 

At a Oct. 12 session at the Becker's Community Hospitals Virtual Event, three community hospital leaders discussed challenges their facilities face due to the pandemic and what executives will need to do to respond effectively. 

Panelists included:

  • Nancy Daoust, EdD, chief ambulatory officer at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Linda Rankin, RN, chief nurse officer at Wickenburg (Ariz.) Community Hospital & Clinics 
  • Mark Pratt, MD, director of solutions management at Allscripts

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Question: A year from now, what do you think the key challenges facing community hospitals will be as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr. Nancy Daoust: One is certainly the financial viability of the organization — in the short term as well as the long term. Some of the other things that I'm thinking about that are going to be particularly relevant are managing supply chain. We've experienced significant challenges with supply chain management. And I do believe that that will continue. 

Additionally, I feel that community hospitals are going to run into increasing challenges in recruitment, particularly those [in] areas that are hard hit from the pandemic. It is possible that that is going to have an impact on their ability to recruit practitioners, nurses, ancillary support staff to that organization, so that is one key concern.

Linda Rankin: The other issue to add to the list is really the unknown, not knowing where you're going, what's happening. Something that we haven't experienced … although we have a history of it back in  1918, but we really didn't have that on our radar. We're very well prepared, as everyone is aware of multiple types of emergency preparedness situations. But this was something a little bit different and unknown. So that is some of the challenge that we may face is just the unknown, and then being prepared for that in various ways. 

Dr. Mark Pratt: Yeah. I think a lot of what we're seeing is a lot more demand on the hospitals to provide data to either government organizations or state reporting bodies. So really a high demand on being able to utilize the EHR to get that data. And it's almost an unexpected thing at this point from central reporting bodies. So that's really putting a stress on a lot of our community hospitals. 

And then the other thing I can think about from the patient perspective is that, I think the pandemic has really given people the insight into telehealth and how they can access providers and facilities. So, I think being ready from that standpoint, from an IT perspective, will really help the community [hospital] serve their patient population.

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