How is COVID-19 Affecting Elective Procedures?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients are likely receiving phone calls from their healthcare providers to reschedule their procedures, appointments, and consultations until a later date. Why? As the virus spreads more widely across the country, the American College of Surgery urges that each hospital or health system minimize, postpone, or cancel elective procedures until after the infection rate begins to decline.

What is an elective procedure?

An elective procedure is neither emergent nor necessary to preserve a patient’s health. Therefore, if the visit was rescheduled, the patient’s health would not be greatly affected. This includes dentist cleanings, regular check-ups with your primary care physician, plastic surgery, etc. For more information on determining whether or not your visit is considered elective, consult this chart by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid.

What are the risks to maintaining your scheduled appointments?

If you continue seeing patients and performing procedures as normal, you’re opening yourself, your hospital, and your patients to infection. Any new patients that come through your doors could be symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers of the virus. On the other hand, if a patient opts to continue with their regularly scheduled surgery, the chance of post-operative infection is high enough as it is. However, in a hospital full of patients with a new and highly contagious infection, their risk of contracting it is even greater.

Elective procedures must be pushed in order to create availability for the “potentially overwhelming and rapid uptick in critical care needs.” [1] Seema Verma, administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, urges that “the crisis, as it develops, requires the curtailment of the least-critical or time-sensitive hospital services.” [2] It is vital at this time to be an active participant in creating space for those critical patients. You can do that by clearing your patient schedule of elective procedures and preparing for the potential rise in emergent cases.

By pushing procedures that can wait, it creates availability for the patients who can’t.


[1] Online March 13, 2020. (2020, March 13). COVID-19: Recommendations for Management of Elective Surgical Procedures. Retrieved from https://www.facs.org/covid-19/clinical-guidance/elective-surgery

[2] Alesse, L. (2020, March 20). As COVID-19 bears down, doctors confront difficult choices on elective surgeries. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/covid-19-bears-doctors-confront-difficult-choices-elective/story?id=69693791

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