As healthcare systems scrambled to tackle the unanticipated and unprecedented arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, many elective procedures were put on hold. The idea was to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus, optimize hospital bed capacity, preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for corona-related cases and remain mindful of resource availability. 

The result? A tremendous backlog in surgical procedures. For example, an estimated 83.5% of all U.S.-based orthopedic procedures have either been delayed, postponed or canceled altogether since the start of the outbreak. While these procedures are labeled as “elective,” a majority of surgical operations are imperative to the overall health and well-being of the American population.

The Ramifications of Delayed Surgical Care

The disruption in surgical care as a result of the pandemic is having a tremendous impact on patient outcomes – bringing to light some alarming concerns. At Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, of the 534 patients currently battling breast cancer, 31.7% said they experienced delays in treatment or screening. 

These types of delays are widespread, implicating hospitals and facilities across the country. Perhaps even more concerning is the long-term effects surgical backlogs will have on medical resources, patient outcomes and survival rates. According to research published in the Annals of Surgery, “At the conclusion of the crisis, there will be at least a 3-month backlog of surgery. Rough calculations suggest that these 3 months translate into nearly 5 million surgical cases.” 

Surgical backlog has become a serious problem for hospital administrators, who are now seeking strategic solutions to address the ever-evolving disruption. Staffing will likely play a major role in helping facilities bridge this gap. Healthcare systems should also consider the scope of safety protocols and precautionary measures they’ve established. Placing an outward-facing emphasis on patient protection will alleviate public anxiety – preventing individuals from avoiding preventative care due to fear and uncertainty.  

Eradicating Surgical Backlog Moving Forward

The pandemic has illuminated just how critical it is for hospitals and healthcare facilities to sustain surgical care (in lieu of ceasing all operations). “Elective” surgery is not only a massive revenue generator for medical facilities, but it’s imperative to the future of patient outcomes. 

As we begin moving forward, hospitals will need to alter their internal patient workflow to accommodate for an increase in procedures in order to regain their footing. While it’ll likely take years to realize the full repercussions of pandemic-related surgical delays, healthcare leaders can start implementing changes now to begin tackling the issue. 

At Polaris, we serve as an extension of your team, helping to implement innovative and strategic recruitment strategies to meet evolving needs. In addition to providing resource- and cost-saving benefits, our goal is to help your healthcare facility provide optimal patient care, overcome challenges and maximize your ROI. 


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