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COVID-19 ISO Insights

OIG Survey: Covid-19 Impacts May Cause Serious Long-term Changes in Healthcare Industry

April 26, 2021

By: Travis Decaminada

Key Takeaway: Hospital staff are reportedly suffering from PTSD as a result of battling Covid-19 and hospitals themselves face staffing shortages.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently published a report discussing some of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the healthcare industry, according to The National Law Review (Full report here). A key finding from the report was that frontline healthcare workers are now coping with severe mental health issues, namely Post-Traumatic Distress Disorder (PTSD). Additionally, hospitals are reportedly having trouble attracting and keeping staff. Per the article, some hospitals are now relying on traveling nurses and other contractors to fill this gap which may increase the financial burden many hospitals have been reporting; in June 2020 the American Hospital Association (AHA) estimated total losses to hospitals and healthcare systems at over $320 billion.

A major component of the OIG report was a survey of 300+ hospital administrators across 45 states. The survey found that many hospitals are still operating in “survival mode,” and that existing problems within the healthcare industry have only been exacerbated as a result of Covid-19, in addition to new problems such as employee burnout and staffing shortages.

Frontline healthcare workers have been battling with Covid-19 for over a year now, and many are reportedly facing lifelong challenges.

For example, according to the OIG report, some hospitals have reported that increased employee stress, in conjunction with other Covid-19 stressors, has resulted in “staff being exhausted, mentally fatigued, and sometimes experiencing possible PTSD. Several hospitals reportedly noted that witnessing COVID-19-related deaths especially weighed on staffs’ mental health.”

Furthermore, beyond impacts on individuals, hospitals themselves are reportedly struggling. The OIG report adds that

Many hospitals have reported experiencing significant staff shortages, particularly among nurses, raising concerns for hospitals about patient safety and quality of care. Hospitals also expressed concerns about the future of the health care workforce as the recruitment pool for nurses and other health care workers has continued to shrink.

Rural Hospitals May Face Even More Challenges

The OIG report also highlighted that the issues mentioned above may be especially prevalent in rural areas, which, when combined with demographic shifts and declining populations, may exacerbate existing economic and challenges in those areas. Rural residents may face increasing difficulty finding suitable healthcare providers, and further, a lack of access to technology also makes telemedicine a less useful alternative. Furthermore, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which recently published their own report here, rural residents are more vulnerable to pandemics due to these and other factors.

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