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U.S. healthcare providers face challenges in post-COVID-19 world: Gallup

By
Jean Lotus
The U.S. healthcare system will need to evolve to cope with financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Gallup analysis said. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The U.S. healthcare system will need to evolve to cope with financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Gallup analysis said. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Hospitals and healthcare organizations need to rework their processes and relationships with patients as part of the recovery from the financial crisis caused by COVID-19, a new analysis from Gallup said.

"To recover financially, healthcare leaders must unite, collaborate with leaders from other industries and re-evaluate traditional practices," Vibhas Ratanjee, a Gallup workplace consultant wrote Monday.

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The pandemic's financial stress on hospitals and healthcare providers struck first in the spring of 2020 as resources were pulled into emergency COVID-19 care for patients filling ICUs.

Hospitals had to cancel profitable elective surgeries during the first COVID spike. Now many patients have lost their insurance coverage after being laid off in 2020 due to the coronavirus, putting more stress on healthcare providers.

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American healthcare systems will likely lose $323 billion in 2020, the American Hospital Association predicts.

It's not just hospitals that are worried about the costs of healthcare. A September study by Gallup and West Health found that 50% of Americans worried that a health-related incident could drive them into bankruptcy, and 15% said a household member had a medical bill that would not be paid this year.

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Even before the pandemic, Americans spent twice as much on healthcare as other wealthy countries, an August study by JAMA Network Open showed. The average yearly individual cost for healthcare was $9,524 per person compared with $3,603 worldwide in 2015, the year after the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented, the study showed.

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Gallup's analysis, "Five Forces That Will Reshape the Future of Healthcare," recommends that healthcare leaders reimagine healthcare with government partners, prepare for disruption, embrace telehealth, manage mergers and incorporate new partners in the healthcare "ecosystem."

Doctors, hospitals and healthcare systems need to streamline so-called "value-based care," paid for by Medicaid and Medicare, which focuses on preventing illnesses and providing efficient treatments leading to a population with fewer chronic conditions, Gallup's Ratanjee said.

Health system leaders should steer clear of "cost cutting measures" to try to recuperate lost revenue. "This is bound to cause serious disruptions to employees and patients," he said.

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Healthcare providers also need to brace for disruption, and invest in top talent now, Ratanjee said. An example is Amazon acquiring a supply license for pharmaceutical drugs.

He added that Hospitals and healthcare services need to jump into telehealth and virtual doctor visits, better manage mergers and coordinate with new vendors that have sprung up in the healthcare "ecosystem."

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For example, personal protective equipment manufacturers and vaccine distributors need to "proactively coordinate" with hospitals and other organizations in the healthcare industry, Ratanjee said.

Gallup predicts that U.S. healthcare systems will change via evolution, not revolution, the analysis said.

"For everyone, the journey toward recovery will be arduous and protracted," Ratanjee wrote.

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