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Hospital Patient Volumes Rebound to 2019 Levels: McKinsey

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Patient volumes in many hospitals have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest Hospital Insights Survey.

McKinsey surveyed leaders at 100 private-sector hospitals across the United States in late July to examine how COVID-19 continued to affect patient volume.

Emergency department and inpatient volumes have returned to 2019 levels, with respondents noting they expect volumes to be roughly 5% to 6% higher in 2022.

Outpatient and procedural volumes were 3% to 4% above 2019 levels in July and are expected to be 6% to 8% higher in 2022.

Other findings include the following:

Patient Volumes

  • U.S. hospitals report patient volumes returned to 2019 levels across sites of care (outpatient, procedural, inpatient and emergency department).
  • Regional variation exists, with reported volumes in the West below 2019 levels across inpatient, procedural and emergency care. The Midwest has seen the fastest recovery of volume compared to 2019 (up 3% to 9% across sites of care).
  • Outpatient volumes have seen the greatest increase, and respondents expect to be 9% above 2019 levels by 2023. Providers report that psychiatry and orthopedics are areas where patient demand is most likely to exceed provider capacity in the next six months. Plastic surgery and ophthalmology saw the greatest decreases in outpatient care in June.
  • About 20% of outpatient visits were shifted to virtual care in 2020, but that declined to about 15% in the second quarter of 2021.

Capacity for Care & Operational Responses

  • About 45% of respondents said access to specialty care is worse today than in was in 2019.
  • More than half of hospitals are expanding hours to increase outpatient access, and 30% report increasing physician productivity expectations because of COVID-19.
  • Providers expect to shift 10% of surgical volume to outpatient settings by 2023, which would result in nearly six in 10 procedures being outpatient.

“Other provider responses include hiring more physicians, increasing physician productivity expectations, hiring more clinical support staff, increasing marketing to patients and proactively calling patients who have delayed care,” the survey report concluded.

“Some COVID-19-related challenges, however, remain, including a shortage of nurses and clinical support staff, and some patients continuing to delay care.”

(Image: Adobe Stock)