Many doctors and healthcare experts are debating whether or not the U.S. healthcare system should return to a pre-COVID way of doing things. Some are calling for a quick return of healthcare to pre-pandemic levels, while others believe that Americans do not require such volume of healthcare.
Routine care and elective procedures, which bring a lot of money into hospitals, were halted so that hospitals could divert resources to treating COVID-19 patients. Routine clinic visits were canceled or replaced by online sessions. The absence of medical care has resulted in massive financial losses for hospitals and clinics. Medical practices have closed. Hospitals have been forced to furlough employees or cut pay.
However, recent studies have proved that there has been less of a need for the amount of healthcare services as suggested pre-pandemic and a decrease in emergency department visits.
Argument #1 Reverting back to non-covid healthcare
Seema Verma, administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), recommended the postponement of pre-pandemic healthcare, but is now urging for it. The looming threat of a shortage of personal protective equipment and other supplies for healthcare workers in the face of a surge in cases made this the right call under the circumstances. This has meant that patients might have to forgo necessary care until the situation stabilized.
“Fortunately, President Trump’s dramatic expansion of payments for Medicare telehealth has successfully blunted some of the impact. It allowed patients to access their clinicians while staying safe at home. This virtual care has been especially important for beneficiaries most vulnerable to the virus and healthcare workers who were spared unnecessary exposure to it. When it comes to telehealth, it took a crisis to push our country to a new frontier,” said Verma.
That being said, telehealth can never adequately replace the standard of in-person care. “Physicians will continue to always need to listen to their patients’ hearts and lungs. Children will always need their vaccinations; and adults cannot go too long without cancer screenings.”
Verma concluded her argument in her opinion article for CNN, saying, “The American healthcare system and the general public made heroic sacrifices to meet the generational challenge posed by Covid-19. That challenge continues, but for many areas of the country in a different way. It is time for health care in the U.S. to safely but steadily resume.”
Argument #2 Maintaining COVID-19 healthcare
Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, opinion writer for The New York Times, argues that there is a more troubling explanation to consider in regards to U.S. healthcare. Jauhar challenged the idea that perhaps Americans do not require the volume of care that their doctors are used to providing.
Obviously, removing available healthcare has had terrible health consequences for some patients with non-Covid-19 illnesses, such as those diagnosed cancers that went untreated because outpatient visits were canceled, or because patients who avoided going to the hospital out of fear of contracting the virus.
Still, a vast majority of patients seem to have fared better than what most doctors expected at the beginning of the pandemic. Researchers say that it will probably take years to understand why. Perhaps patients mitigated the harm of delayed care by adopting healthful behaviors, such as smoking less and exercising more. Perhaps the huge increases in stress were balanced out by other things, such as spending more time with loved ones.
Hospital visits dwindle
In a recent Kaiser Health News (KHN) survey, only one in 10 respondents said their health or a family member’s health had worsened as a result of delayed healthcare. Eighty-six percent said their health had stayed about the same.
The number of hospital visits have dropped by 23 percent for heart attacks, 20 percent for strokes and 10 percent for uncontrolled high blood sugar, according to the KHN. “The finding suggests that patients with these conditions either could not access care or were delaying or avoiding seeking care during the early pandemic period,” the authors wrote.
“The substantial reduction in [emergency department] visits for these life-threatening conditions might be explained by many pandemic-related factors including fear of exposure to COVID-19, unintended consequences of public health recommendations to minimize non-urgent health care, stay-at-home orders, or other reasons,” said KHN researchers.
The conclusion of the research was that it is simply “biologically implausible or unlikely for visits to decline because fewer people are experiencing heart attacks, strokes or high blood sugar.”
We want to hear from you
The facts speak for themselves. What side of the argument do you find yourself on? Would you prefer to go back to healthcare as it was before the pandemic, or do you think we still need to focus on coronavirus cases? What has your healthcare experience been like during this time? We’d love to know what you think! You can find us on Facebook.