Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the healthcare system in the United States. The redistribution of resources and suspension of elective procedures and other services has resulted in financial stress across all service lines. The financial effects on the practice of vascular surgery have not yet been quantified. We hypothesized that vascular surgery divisions have experienced losses affecting the hospital and professional sides that will not be recoupable without significant productivity increases.
Methods: Administrative claims data for clinical services performed by the vascular surgery division at a tertiary medical center for March and April 2019 and for March and April 2020 were analyzed. These claims were separated into two categories: hospital claims (inpatient and outpatient) and professional claims (professional reimbursement for all services provided). Medicare reimbursement methods were used to assign financial value: diagnosis-related group for inpatient services, ambulatory payment classification for outpatient services, and the Medicare physician fee schedule for professional reimbursement and work relative value units (wRVUs). Reimbursements and productivity (wRVUs) were compared between the two periods. A financial model was created to determine the increase in future productivity over baseline required to mitigate the losses incurred during the pandemic.
Results: A total of 11,317 vascular surgery claims were reviewed. Hospital reimbursement during the pandemic decreased from $4,982,114 to $2,649,521 (-47%) overall (inpatient, from $3,505,775 to $2,128,133 [-39%]; outpatient, from $1,476,339 to $521,388 [-65%]) and professional reimbursement decreased from $933,897 to $430,967 (-54%) compared with the same period in 2019. Professional productivity as measured by wRVUs sustained a similar decline from 10,478 wRVUs to 5386 wRVUs (-51%). Modeling sensitivity analyses demonstrated that if a vascular division were able to increase inpatient and outpatient revenue to greater than prepandemic levels by 10%, 5%, or 3%, it would take 9, 19, or 31 months, respectively, for the hospital to recover their pandemic-associated losses. Similarly, professional reimbursement recovery would require 11, 20, or 36 months with corresponding increases in productivity.
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound and lasting effects on the world in terms of lives lost and financial hardships. The financial effects on vascular surgery divisions has resulted in losses ranging from 39% to 65% compared with the prepandemic period in the previous year. Because the complete mitigation of losses is not feasible in the short term, alternative and novel strategies are needed to financially sustain the vascular division and hospital during a prolonged recovery period.
Keywords: COVID-19; Financial analysis; Reimbursement; Vascular surgery.
Copyright © 2021 Society for Vascular Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.