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During the shut-down in March and April, hospitals took a huge financial hit. Most of their revenue comes from non-life-threatening procedures, and these were halted causing US hospitals to lose more than $50 billion a month.

 

Now that we’re facing a new wave of COVID-19, how will this affect hospitals looking forward? To get a clear picture, we looked at the general public’s interest of orthopedic procedures. Most ortho procedures are non-life-threatening, so they serve as a harbinger of what’s to come.

 

With the help of SimilarWeb, we looked at the web searches for Orthopedic procedures.  Check out the trends for the search term, “ACL surgery” from February (pre-shutdown) through April 2020 on several provider and health information sites.

chart showing spike in ACL surgeries

That same pattern emerged on every orthopedic procedure. Here is how the search looked from the same time period for shoulder, knee, spine and hip replacement surgery.

 

chart showing Spine surgeries decline
graph showing searches for shoulder surgery
graph showing searches for Hip replacement surgery
graph showing sharp decline in web searches for knee surgery

As you might expect, the searches for these procedures was down. Remember, these charts measure searches. Depending on the procedure, there can be a long buying cycle from a search to scheduling the surgery.  Often that journey ranges from a few months to a year or two. So people who might have surgery in November, for example, are starting to search now. Or are they?

 

The Good News

Again working with SimilarWeb we looked at the web traffic for some of the largest ortho practices in the South; Resurgens Orthopaedics, Peachtree Orthopedics and Ortho Carolina. The good news is, May began a slow uptick in site visits.

May uptick in Ortho site visits

This matches an overall trend in elective procedures nationally.

 

What Happens Now?

With COVID cases on the rise, we’re all wondering if there will be another big shutdown and what that will mean.  I asked Miranda Madar, CMO of Resurgens Orthopaedics (and a guest on this episode of our podcast), one of the largest providers in Georgia, how things were looking and here’s what she said,

“As of this-exact-moment we have not seen a downward trend in procedures or appointments, but I believe the spike is too recent to see any shifts just yet. I would imagine that as more people begin to test positive or general fear and uncertainty develops, the scheduled cases may get cancelled or postponed as patients consider delaying their care in the near future. If the spike continues then we could see a measurable impact in the coming weeks.”

 

That sentiment was matched by Kathryn Smith, (also a guest on our podcast) CMO of MedShape. They provide advanced surgical equipment for some orthopedic procedures. Orthopedic surgeons order MedShape products in anticipation of the surgeries they have scheduled. Kathryn said,

“Our surgical volume did pick back up in June almost returning to pre-COVID levels. So far we haven’t seen this recent spike in cases impact procedures yet, but I would expect that to change in the coming weeks now that some states are starting to ban elective surgeries again.”

What happens next depends on these factors:

  • Will COVID-19 cases continue to rise and lead to a renewed stoppage of most non-life-threatening procedures?
  • Will the fear of the new cases cause people to postpone their procedures?
  • Will the new peak create more unemployment which will mean more people lose their health insurance?

 

Like every other industry, what’s next depends on a broader societal picture. Will we control the spread? Will we be shut down again? If I had the answer to those questions, I promise I would have led with it.

 

Let’s work to pull together again as a society and control this disease. To protect our lives, health and the viability of our health care providers.

 

Are you in health care? What trends are you seeing? Please reach out and share your thoughts.

hand x-ray making ok symbol

 

 

 

Rudy Fernandez

Creative Outhouse, Founder & Executive Creative Director

Host, Marketing Upheaval podcast