Webinar overview: Current healthcare challenges and impacts on the future of care

May 23, 2022 in Webinar  •  By Miles Varn, MD

We recently talked with Amy Fahrenkopf, MD, MPH, president of HSS Health and senior vice president at the Hospital for Special Surgery and Michael Zinner, MD, chief executive officer and executive medical director at Miami Cancer Institute. We discussed the disruption that the pandemic has caused in healthcare and what impact the challenges that disruption has created will mean for the future of care in the U.S.

 You can view the webinar here.

Barriers to access, delayed care, nursing and critical personnel shortages, rising costs—these are just some of the challenges our healthcare system is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Fahrenkopf and Dr. Zinner shared their perspectives on how the fallout from the pandemic has affected care for orthopedic and oncology patients and what changes they foresee in the healthcare system in the coming years.

Both physicians agree that telehealth and technology will continue to play an important role in broadening access to care as well as helping hospitals and healthcare providers ensure that they are using resources efficiently while delivering quality care to patients. Dr. Fahrenkopf noted that telehealth visits skyrocketed during the pandemic and the number of telehealth visits continues to be significantly higher than it was pre-pandemic. She says telehealth will continue to be a powerful tool for her institution, especially for patients who are undergoing rehabilitation or treatment for rheumatological disorders.

While much of the care that oncology patients need cannot be delivered via telehealth, Dr. Zinner says that technology is also having an impact for his institution and patients. Predictive analytics are helping Miami Cancer Institute become both more efficient and more patient and family focused in terms of how care is delivered.

Another important impact of the pandemic is the delay of care and what that delay means for patients’ outcomes. Especially in oncology, delayed cancer screenings have the potential to lead to 4,000 excess colon cancer deaths and 5,000 excess breast cancer deaths over the next decade according to Dr. Zinner. In addition to the impact on patients of later diagnoses and more advanced cancers, the delay in screenings and care mean care for these patients will be more expensive than it would have been if their cancer had been caught earlier.

Another factor that has affected access to care for both Dr. Zinner and Dr. Fahrenkopf’s institutions is that many of the key members of their healthcare teams have contracted COVID, leaving the institutions short staffed. Nursing shortages, supply chain problems, and inflation are also impacting both access to care and the financial wellbeing of healthcare institutions. Dr. Zinner believes that well-supported institutions will be able to weather the next year to year and a half of financial and operational stresses, but that may not be the case for smaller institutions, which may be forced to consolidate or close their doors.

Looking toward the future of healthcare, both physicians foresee an increase in ambulatory surgery centers that are conveniently located near where patients live and work. Their institutions are also investing in digital tools that will help improve patient experience and outcomes while making care delivery more efficient.