The Challenges Healthcare Institutions Face During the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 25, 2020

Themes for discussion in Professor Steve Ullmann’s healthcare executive MBA courses now occur in actuality among healthcare systems at the forefront in the fight against the current pandemic. No longer speaking in hypothetical terms, the health management and policy professor highlights some of the central challenges for healthcare institutions:

The Patient
Patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms enter healthcare systems to test for possible coronavirus, but facilities contending with a shortage of testing kits and a delay in receiving the results may end up isolating virus carriers with non-infected patients of other viral conditions, potentially leaving the virus to spread within the quarantine spaces.

The Provider
Limited testing capability restricts testing to only the symptomatic. But with a transmissible virus for about five days before symptoms manifest, affected providers, which may include physicians, nurses, therapists, and workers who clean and disinfect, can be contagious without yet showing symptoms. Meanwhile, symptomatic providers, as well as those with symptomatic family members, must isolate themselves, creating the associated risk of a shortage of providers.

The Financials
Healthcare systems are under financial vulnerability caused by working at low operational margins and with reduced revenue-generating procedures such as elective surgeries. Collecting fees may also pose a challenge, especially among the uninsured and underinsured unable to cover the $3,500 cost of the test and the significant cost of treatment. Institutions also face uncertainty due to economic signals of potential free tests to patients without specification as to the entity that would undertake costs.

The Ethics
Perhaps the most trying of challenges, ethical considerations often leave healthcare system decision-makers with difficult choices. Limited supplies, such as in the number of intensive care unit beds or inhalation therapy equipment, may prompt the implementation of the medical utility concept, in which providers weigh a patient’s need for a service against its prospect for success.

The fight against a widespread virus has catapulted the healthcare business field into the spotlight, underscoring the importance of healthcare management professionals prepared for such critical moments.

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