Healthcare Utilization Not Bouncing Back

Recent studies and data throw cold water on expectations that patients will “catch up” on missed treatment and tests. With the current COVID resurgence, this trend is very likely to continue, impacting non-COVID hospital and physician reimbursement.

A study just published by Epic Health Research Network (EHRN) and KFF is titled, “Lack of an Admissions Recovery Suggests Some Are Forgoing Care Skipped Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In a summary, KFF said, 

“Based on admissions data from 250 hospitals across 47 states, the analysis estimates hospital admissions during the first three months of 2021 were 89.4% of what would be expected in the absence of the pandemic. The pattern continued through the week of April 3, when admissions were 85.5% of expected levels.”

The study goes on to say, “If we remove patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis, we see that all other admissions are 80.7% of expected levels based on pre-pandemic usage in the week of April 3, 2021.”

Healthcare spending shows the same trends. Official US Bureau of Economic Analysis figures show that overall healthcare spending has returned to pre-pandemic levels but is 7.1% below expected levels in June, 2021 (the latest available data).

Similar COVID impacts are reported by Radiology Business in new research that showed 

“For every positive COVID-19 test during one recent period, radiologists recorded about 1.2 fewer outpatient imaging exams one week later.”

With COVID hospitalizations and cases continuing to rise, all of these data suggest that physicians and hospitals should expect non-COVID volumes and reimbursement to be weak, well below pre-pandemic expectations. 

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