US Cancel Elective Procedures – Again

The alarming rise of COVID-19 cases disrupts elective surgeries across the US. Hospitals have canceled or rescheduled electives surgeries to prepare for potentially record-breaking COVID cases due to Thanksgiving gatherings. Many hospitals have placed strict rules on non-emergency surgeries.

While elective procedures such as knee or hip replacements are most profitable and hospitals are now better equipped to handle elective surgeries and COVID, the stress of the holiday spread and revival of the current virus causes hospitals to prepare for maximum capacity, causing a financial predicament.

The US backlog on elective surgeries is already in the millions. According to research published by The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery and the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, there will be a backlog of more than 1 million orthopedic surgical cases after two years of elective surgery deferment. Cataract surgeries have also been backlogged to over a million. Not only causing issues to hospitals, but much of a patient’s care is dependent on elective surgeries. Generating more healthcare provider burnout, financial stress on the organization, and affecting a patient’s healthcare providers’ point of view.

Factors that need to be taken into consideration before restarting elective surgeries include making risks visible. Not being able to see possible risks can lead to increased problems. Surgical teams need to prepare for how they will safely perform the procedure, monitor the patient’s safety after the procedure, and ask patients questions before the surgery. This is to address their physical and mental health and plan for pre-and post-op care. They should not assume that patient circumstances from pre-pandemic are the same now; patients may not be able to obtain the help they need after surgery

It will be important to monitor how the US addresses the backlog of elective surgeries under new leadership in 2021.