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Shift in Care Locations

Patient Fear Around Returning to Hospitals Will Propel Shift in Where Patients Receive Care

We’ve seen in recent weeks how COVID-19 has transformed the way Americans receive care. The most visible change has been the increase in telehealth over the last two months, allowing consumers to easily access high quality care in the comfort and safety of their own homes. While telehealth has proven its value and will stick around following the pandemic, I expect usage will drop as many Americans not only prefer in-person interactions with their doctors, but also need to schedule in-person visits for certain procedures and care services that cannot be done through telehealth.

The less buzzed-about and more long-term change I see coming out of the pandemic related to care delivery is a major shift from hospitals and health systems to other care locations. To be clear, the decentralization of health care did not begin with the pandemic. We’ve watched this process begin over the last few years. However, COVID-19 has become the true impetus driving this movement.

One of the main reasons for this shift is that Americans are concerned about and feel unsafe returning to hospitals where coronavirus patients were treated. Understandably, patients are looking to minimize their potential exposure to the virus as much as possible. We recently conducted a survey looking at consumer perceptions around health care in light of COVID-19 and asked Americans where they plan to receive care post-pandemic. Only 16% of respondents stated they would return to a hospital or health system for their care.

Benefits of Ambulatory Surgery Centers

As part of this decentralization, care will shift more and more to non-hospital locations like urgent care clinics, imaging centers and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). ASCs are a great choice for the millions of Americans who are looking to schedule or reschedule elective procedures that have been delayed due to the pandemic. Not only can consumers feel more confident about their safety entering these facilities, but there are many other benefits to choosing these types of centers as well.

Let’s start with cost. Research shows that ambulatory care centers can be 45-60% less expensive than hospitals, resulting in major savings for not only patients, but insurers too. This cost-effective care doesn’t compromise the quality of the care. In fact, research also shows that surgeries in this setting are often shorter, recovery time is faster, and the infection rate is half that of hospitals. Additionally, since the facilities are smaller and specialized to limited procedures, operations can run smoother and service is more personalized to each individual patient.

COVID-19 and the fear it has induced on Americans is propelling the shift in patient volume from hospitals to alternative care locations. The benefits of these types of facilities cannot be denied. As more states open and elective procedures resume, considering where you will feel most safe and confident receiving care is important. I urge every American to do their research on the different care locations near them before scheduling their next procedure, whether its cataract surgery or simple lab work. At Sapphire Digital, we are committed to helping consumers navigate their health care journeys and compare care location, quality and cost. Through making these comparisons and weighing all the options, Americans can make more informed decisions about where they’re receiving care that will benefit their future wellbeing.

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