The pandemic put a strain on the supply chain for ASCs, and COVID-19 has left some patients with lingering, long-term effects. For physicians, that means thinking about patient volume and future supply chain strategy.
Two ASC physicians told Becker's ASC Review their predictions:
Note: Responses were edited for style and clarity.
Question: Could long-haul COVID-19 patients affect which cases ASCs take on?
Ariz Mehta, MD. Ambulatory Pain and Disability Management Center (Jersey City, N.J.): We have a newly licensed ASC in New Jersey, and we have seen how beneficial our practice options have expanded for patients looking for state-of-the-art precision interventional pain medicine in a private and personalized facility. In fact, many patients have specifically asked for options that do not include hospital-based facilities since the pandemic began. We anticipate this will continue for the long term not only for long-haul COVID-19 patients but in general for patients treated for orthopedic, spine, sports or chronic pain-related conditions.
Rajiv Sharma, MD. President and Founder of Digestive Health Associates (Terre Haute, Ind.): COVID-19 should actually drive more patients to ASCs for less infection burden due to less square footage that can harbor more viruses. Most ASCs are newly built compared to hospital structures and have newer flooring and carpeting which has less infection, bacterial spores or infectious agents. It’s more cost-effective to replace an ASC's flooring compared to a hospital's due to lower square footage. I also predict faster turnaround, less waiting and less exposure to infectious agents on top of COVID-19 compared to hospitals.
Q: How will supply chain strategy change for ASCs? Will there be more investment to prepare for future global emergencies?
AM: Supply chain strategy change for ASCs will include allowing continued access for patients in need of interventional pain medicine treatments as the lack of access could be related to the concomitant increase in opioid and other drug related mortalities. We cannot forget the preceding opioid epidemic and the need to recognize this field of medicine as essential to the function and quality of life of the patients we serve.
Investment to prepare for future global and regional emergencies may materialize as an accelerated coordination related to neuromuscular and musculoskeletal outpatient service lines.
RS: ASCs will likely partner with vendors to have a six-month to one-year supply of personal protective equipment available as a ration. I predict positive pressure to get ventilation rooms for better viral clearance. ASCs might consider selling back to vendor options if equipment is not used and return to get credit for future purchases.