Surgery volumes have rebounded faster than expected, but the process of having surgery in a post-pandemic world may never be the same.
Most medical device companies took a big hit on revenue during the height of COVID-19 as elective and non-emergency surgery came to a screeching halt in many geographical markets. During The Virtual MedTech Conference this week, hosted by AdvaMed, panelists weighed in on the recovery pace of procedure volumes, and offered up some predictions for what the future holds for surgery in a post-COVID world.
Moderator Monish Rajpal, managing director at LEK Consulting, laid the groundwork of the discussion by sharing some of his observations of surgery trends. Rajpal said procedure volume recovery began around June and July, which tracks with previous MD+DI reports. He said the recovery was brisk at first, quickly reaching about 80% of pre-COVID volume levels, with some variation by specialty, hospital size, and geography.
“That recovery appears to have gradually slowed down a bit, and we think that is being driven by a few factors,” Rajpal said.
One factor he noted is hospital capacity constraints.
“As we all know, to operate in this environment hospitals have had to deploy a number of different protocols,” Rajpal said. “They’ve tried to mitigate the impact of those protocols, but the net impact is a 20% capacity reduction.”
Demand for surgery has also been down, a trend he attributed to both a shift in health insurance mix due to pandemic-related unemployment, a reluctance by patients to have surgery during the pandemic if it can be avoided, and a backlog of surgical cases from the beginning of the pandemic. He also said the “new normal” in procedure volumes could end up being lower than the “old normal”, at least for a few years.
What is the current volume of surgery cases as a percentage of 2019 levels?
Bill Hawkins, a retired Medtronic CEO, and chairman of the board at Duke University Hospital, said that as of this week, Duke is performing record levels of surgical cases.
“Honestly I would not have expected things to have rebounded as quickly as they have but we are about 102% of prior year volume. A number of those cases are backlog cases, and we expect to work through the end of the backlog probably about the end of October,” Hawkins said. “We had about 7,000 cases backlogged due to COVID. At the same time, with the amount of new cases coming in, we think that by the end of October/November timeframe we could be back to 100% of where we were pre-COVID.”
Hawkins also noted efficiency challenges associated with additional PPE requirements, which he said adds about 10 minutes per procedure.
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