What many had hoped would be a summer of waning COVID-19 infections before a possible second wave in the fall has, at press time, been replaced by a more dire outlook, as cases surge in the South and West and hospitals there now begin to feel stress on capacity. The situation is even further compounded, though, as damage caused by the disease expands well beyond even these new, startling numbers.
As outbreaks began in spring, an immediate response by healthcare organizations was to shut down nonelective surgeries and procedures, all while patients simultaneously postponed seeking care in response to both stay-at-home orders and simple fear of exposure. This precipitous drop in revenue would be a challenge on its own for any hospital; however, it’s been met by an increase in costs, as systems respond to the crisis with numerous surge responses and investments—be they equipment and PPE, negative-pressure room conversions, or the fit-out of alternate care sites.
In the May report “Hospitals and Health Systems Face Unprecedented Financial Pressures Due to COVID-19,” the American Hospital Association attempted to quantify the effects of this reality across the four-month period of March 1 to June 30, ultimately determining a financial impact of $202.6 billion on U.S. hospitals and health systems, or an average of $50.7 billion per month.
As the healthcare design industry looks ahead and collectively tries to figure out how best to support healthcare organizations amid coronavirus, solutions must be twofold. To begin, it will be critical to maintain normal operations, even during a surge. Some initial ideas are focused on careful screening and intake procedures, particularly in emergency departments, to manage infection risk and scale up to dedicating one site in a hospital system solely to non-COVID treatments and procedures.
But the cost of patients not seeking care runs deep, as well. We must create environments that make patients feel safe, so no symptom is ignored or treatment delayed. From thinking through social distancing to integrating touchless technology to leveraging telehealth, this industry can play a role in reducing the health impacts that extend beyond the coronavirus itself.
It’s a tall order. And we’re working hard to bring you the knowledge and resources you need to navigate what lies ahead—including right here in this issue. Be sure to check out “Acute Condition” by Executive Editor Anne DiNardo for insight on hospital design moving forward, as well as “Resetting the Stage” for guidance on the reopening of outpatient care.
We also want to know what else you need, as we look to the future and respond to current challenges. Email me anytime with your ideas and feedback.