Patient volume is tumbling due to elective surgery and travel restrictions, “shelter in place” recommendations, state-mandated closures, and patients’ greater reluctance to visit emergency departments, according to Bruce Hamory, MD, Partner and Chief Medical Officer in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group and Deirdre Baggot, PhD, RN and Partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group. Guy Carpenter is an affiliate of Oliver Wyman.
Since the COVID-19 crisis started, patient volume has fallen by an average of 60 percent for medical practices (nearly 75 percent of the over 700 organizations surveyed by the Medical Group Management Association last April were independent medical practices with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent physicians).
Emergency rooms have reported dramatic drops in even those visits that are especially critical and could depend on someone living or dying. Stanford University Medical Center, for example, which usually has 12 to 15 patients in their inpatient stroke unit, had none during one day in April – this was a first.
A review of insurance claims filed between March 1 and April 30 of this year demonstrated a 40 percent decrease in emergency department visits and a 47 percent decline in observation visits (which are commonly used for the evaluation of chest pain). The same study revealed a 93 percent drop-off in lab tests ordered from the emergency department and a 78 percent decline in tests ordered in urgent care centers.