Survey: US hospital patient volumes move back towards 2019 levels

While regional variations in patient volumes continue at hospitals in the United States, many returned to 2019 levels in June and July 2021, a new McKinsey survey finds.

McKinsey surveyed leaders at 100 private sector hospitals across the United States in late July to examine how COVID-19 continued to impact hospital volume. Emergency department and inpatient volumes have returned to 2019 levels, with respondents noting they expect it to be roughly 5 to 6 percent higher in 2022. Outpatient and procedural volumes were 3 to 4 percent above 2019 levels in July, and are expected to be 6 to 8 percent higher in 2022.

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More than a third of provider respondents said they expected patient demand to exceed capacity in psychiatry and orthopedic surgery in the next six months. Roughly a fourth said they expect the same challenge in cardiology and gastroenterology. Plastic surgery and ophthalmology continue to have large decreases in outpatient volume when compared to 2019. To address these challenges, more than 50 percent of hospital respondents said they would expand their clinic hours to increase outpatient access. Other provider responses include hiring more physicians, increasing physician productivity expectations, hiring more clinical support staff, increasing marketing to patients, and proactively calling patients who have delayed care. Some COVID-19-related challenges, however, remain, including a shortage of nurses and clinical support staff, and some patients continuing to delay care.

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