Multi-pronged approach needed to restore consumer confidence in safety of elective procedures

GlobalData Healthcare 21 August 2020 (Last Updated August 21st, 2020 22:18)

Multi-pronged approach needed to restore consumer confidence in safety of elective procedures

Countries around the world are beginning to ease restrictions on elective procedures, with some allowing hospitals and clinics to increase to 80% of their pre-Covid-19 capacity. However, simply opening healthcare facilities may not be enough to entice consumers to schedule delayed procedures. Without a widely available, effective vaccine, a multi-pronged approach is needed to allay consumer fears regarding the safety of in-person medical appointments and help medical device markets recover.

It has become increasingly clear that Covid-19 will continue to wreak havoc for the immediate future. Thankfully, lockdowns have begun to ease as countries begin to get infections under control. Restrictions on elective procedures have also begun to ease, with many countries now allowing hospitals and clinics to perform these procedures at reduced capacity. However, this may not be enough to convince patients to start scheduling procedures again. A 27 May survey of 7,000 US patients by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that concerns about safety are a key roadblock for rescheduling procedures. Clear and effective government policies on re-opening and testing, sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), and innovations in procedure methodology are all needed to assuage patients’ fears about safety.

An acceptable and safe reopening strategy would include clear guidelines for citizens, businesses, and healthcare centres (such as mandated physical distancing measures), and must first come from either the local or federal government. It also includes a robust testing policy, because comprehensive testing is necessary for effective contact tracing, allowing health policymakers to accurately control and combat the virus. Because this pandemic is global, testing must occur at a global scale, potentially leaving the supply of swabs and critical chemical reagents low. To prevent this, researchers at Yale University have recently developed a saliva-based Covid-19 test that eliminates the need for swabs and is compatible with a range of common reagents. This and other novel tests will hopefully allow governments around the world to implement widespread testing and contact tracing, demonstrating to consumers that the virus in under control.

Even the most comprehensive testing program is still a largely reactive measure to the disease. Proactive measures are also needed to protect both healthcare practitioners and patients. Masks have now become common PPE, but in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Bhaskar and Arun showed that wearing plastic face shields along with a mask further decreased the risk of infection. Other researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago recently found that replacing the water in dental drills with a diluted polymer solution would prevent potentially virus-spreading aerosols from being formed during dental procedures. Continued innovations in PPE, their usage, and safer procedure methodologies are needed for consumers to feel safe during medical procedures.

Most markets have experienced a significant downturn due to the pandemic, and medical markets are no exception. For example, Dentsply Sirona, a global leader in dental devices, recently reported a Q2 net sales decline of 51.4% compared to Q2 2019. For these markets to recover prior to the launch of a vaccine, consumer fears need to be addressed via clear government regulations and programs, as well as novel approaches to proactively limit exposure to the virus.