If COVID-19 becomes a full-fledged emergency in your community, are you ready to respond? For hospitals – especially those serving smaller communities and rural areas – the answer depends on how thoroughly you’ve planned for a severe outbreak’s potential effect on your institution. Oliver Wyman has previously written about a key challenge for medical practices so far: shortages of labor capacity and supplies. Although those are good starting points, a robust emergency plan must go much further, according to Bruce Hamory, MD, Partner and Chief Medical Officer in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group and Helen Leis, Partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group. Oliver Wyman is an affiliate of Guy Carpenter.
An outbreak doesn’t just change how you do things. It changes what you do.
If an outbreak strikes, you probably won’t be delivering your usual services. Elective procedures, well-patient visits, tests, and so forth will likely be canceled, both because sick staff will leave you too shorthanded and because patient safety will demand it. Instead, you will revert to a role US hospitals haven’t played for several generations: concentrating resources on infectious diseases. This has multiple implications:
A large outbreak produces a surge of patients in need of treatment. Data indicates that about 20 percent of people who become sick with COVID-19 require hospitalization.
A key challenge in preparing is figuring out how to prevent patients who may have COVID-19 from coming to the hospital or clinic at all. Communication about indications for visit and providing access to advice through electronic means, by telemedicine or a call center, could be a great help. Move visits to video and phone lines when appropriate.
You will need a plan for sorting the symptomatic and potentially infected into one group who can safely weather and monitor the disease at home and another more severely ill group who requires admission.