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Procedure Recovery May Be Slower than Expected, Survey Says

Graphic by Amanda Pedersen, background image from Adobe Stock Procedure Recovery May Be Slower than Expected, Survey Says
Even as hospitals resume elective procedures, a survey of consumers suggests that patients may not be willing to reschedule deferred procedures until 2021 or later.

A consumer survey conducted by analysts at Needham & Co. sheds some light onto what the procedure recovery could look like in the United States as hospitals in many states have begun resuming elective procedures.

"The results of the survey indicate that consumers remain hesitant about elective procedures with 26% indicating that they don't feel comfortable having an elective procedure until 2021 or later," said Mike Matson, a medtech analyst at Needham & Co.

The firm surveyed 269 consumers across the United States on May 11 and May 12, however the analysts noted that the number of responses varied for each question because some respondents were directed to an additional set of questions depending on their answers to questions early in the survey.

Matson said the survey results could imply a slower recovery in elective procedures than consensus expectations, which assume stabilization, if not a return to growth, by the fourth quarter of 2020.

"While a majority of respondents are comfortable having an elective procedure in either [the second or third quarter], there is a substantial portion that want to wait until 2021 or later," Matson said. "When we asked respondents when would be the earliest they would feel comfortable returning to a healthcare setting for a potential elective medical or surgical procedure, the results were barbell shaped."

Nearly one third of respondents (31%) said they would be comfortable having a procedure done in the second quarter of 2020 at the earliest, nearly one third (32%) said they would be comfortable having a procedure done in third quarter at the earliest, and 11% said they would be comfortable have a procedure done in fourth quarter at the earliest. However, Matson noted, just over a quarter of respondents (26%) indicated they would not feel comfortable having a procedure done until sometime in 2021 or later.

There were 23% of respondents that were planning to have an elective procedure of some sort in 2020 prior to the pandemic. Of these procedures, dental (19%) and gastrointestinal (19%) procedures were the most common followed by orthopedics (17%), general surgery (14%), and cardiovascular (3%) procedures. When asked about their plans for their procedures, 72% of the respondents that had not already had the procedure plan to go ahead with it when scheduled or rescheduled (if it was postponed), the analysts reported. There were 12% of respondents that indicated they would not go ahead with their procedure and there were 16% of respondents that said they were unsure about what they were going to do. Also, 62% of respondents that had procedures postponed have had their hospital or physician reach out to them about rescheduling their procedures.

While a majority of procedures (70%) are scheduled or rescheduled for either the second or third quarter of 2020, there is a small portion (14%) that are scheduled for 2021 or later.

Matson said the most important factor affecting respondents' willingness to have an elective procedure is the availability of a medication to treat COVID-19, and the next most important factor is the availability of a vaccine for the virus.

"Other important factors include segregating COVID-19 patients from other patients within hospitals, improving the availability of COVID-19 tests, and the ending of 'stay at home' restrictions," Matson said.

The least important factor affecting respondents' willingness to have a procedure is a stronger economy, the analyst noted. He said respondents also indicated they would be most willing to have an elective procedure in a hospital outpatient setting, which was closely followed by an ambulatory surgery center. These were followed by a physcian's office, then a hospital inpatient setting, Matson said.

Needham & Co. said every U.S. geographic region was represented, with the West (30% of respondents) and Southeast (27% of respondents) most heavily represented. A majority of respondents were between 40 and 79 years old with the average age being about 57. A vast majority of respondents (90%) have health insurance and expect to keep it during 2020, although 2% lost their health insurance in 2020 and 4% expect to lose their health insurance this year.

"What is surprising to us is that the trend of around two-thirds of respondents indicating they would be comfortable having a procedure done in [the second or third quarter] holds across geographies. Specifically, 70% of respondents in the Midwest, 65% of respondents in the Northeast, 61% of respondents in the West, and 58% of respondents in the Southeast indicated that they would be comfortable having a procedure done in either the second or third quarter]," Matson said. "We had thought that procedures might recover more slowly in the Northeast and West than in the Southeast and Midwest given the larger impact of COVID-19 in these regions."

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