When COVID-19 became a severe health crisis in America, many hospitals and medical facilities stopped performing elective procedures for patients. Instead, they needed the space and resources to treat the high number of COVID-19 patients. Not only that but the government regulations and restrictions forbid elective procedures.
As a result, it caused significant financial problems for doctors, specialists, and all healthcare industry stakeholders. Since doctors tend to make more money from providing elective medical treatments to patients, it caused many of them to end their practices altogether.
The fee-for-service care model thrives on elective medical procedures, even if they put the patients’ health at risk. Hospital executives don’t care about the risks to patients because every patient signs an acknowledgment consent form to indicate they understand the risks involved. As long as they get paid, that is all that matters under the fee-for-service model.
The Pandemic is Almost Over. Now What?
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be winding down now. More government restrictions are being reduced and eliminated across the country. This means medical practices and hospitals can start offering elective procedures again and make a lot of money. But should they? No. But will they? Yes.
The free enterprise system allows medical professionals to sell risky elective medical treatments. However, the American people don’t have to purchase these treatments and put themselves at unnecessary risk. COVID-19 has not completely gone away yet, so why risk contracting this deadly disease by getting some unnecessary elective procedure done?
Now you might think it’s okay for vaccinated patients. After all, the vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness, but they aren’t as effective in stopping the transmission of the virus from one person to another. So even if a patient is vaccinated, they could still contract the virus and transmit it to someone else. Maybe they wouldn’t suffer any severe health consequences, but someone else might if they pass it to them.
Unfortunately, this is a tough argument to make against parties in favor of easing restrictions on elective healthcare providers. Their counterargument would be the idea of giving people freedom of choice. Since these are elective surgeries, people can choose whether to take on the personal risk. Everyone else who is worried about contracting the virus should get vaccinated to protect themselves.
That is a reasonable counterargument. However, there wouldn’t be this debate about elective procedures if the national healthcare system operated under a value-based model rather than a fee-for-service model. But because it is a fee-for-service model, hospitals and medical practices depend on elective surgeries to make most of their money.
Government restrictions preventing these elective procedures could potentially put these healthcare providers out of business. That is not something that should happen in the middle of a pandemic, where healthcare providers are in-demand more than ever. Sure, patients could be kept safe by preventing elective surgeries, but it could still hurt them if it means fewer healthcare providers can remain financially afloat.
Healthcare providers have been requesting assistance from various local governments as well as federal and state governments. These efforts seem to be working because many lawmakers are easing restrictions in several states. Some states even have full unrestricted access to elective surgeries for patients who want them. This applies to dental procedures too.
What are the real risks involved?
Any patient thinking about getting an elective medical procedure should consult with their primary care doctor beforehand. The primary care doctor is supposed to explain the risks of getting these elective procedures to their patients. That way, they better understand the pros and cons of getting the procedures.
Sadly, many primary care physicians don’t understand the risks of these procedures either. They can give educated guesses, but they might not know with certainty if it is a specific area of medicine they don’t specialize in treating. There is even less information about how the coronavirus will affect patients getting elective procedures.
Healthcare providers will claim they take all the necessary safety precautions when performing elective procedures. But since doctors don’t fully understand how COVID-19 functions and operates, there are no guarantees regarding its effect on patients. So is it really worth taking the risk if the patient and their primary doctor don’t understand the risk completely?
The best advice is to offer emergency medical procedures only. These could be procedures to treat a stroke, heart attack, cancer, or another life-threatening disease. On the other hand, if a patient wants a facelift or hip replacement surgery, they don’t necessarily need to get it right away. Even if slight discomfort is involved, they can still wait until the pandemic threat is officially over before they risk getting an elective surgery.
The safest thing to do is wait for the pandemic to be over. Then you can begin offering elective procedures again. In the meantime, think about offering your medical services to treat COVID-19 patients and assist your community in helping people get healthier again. That is the fastest way to remove COVID-19 from your community and get things back to normal again for your elective medical practice.