As the impact of COVID-19 on humankind continues, it has become crucial to take care of ourselves as the months and weeks pass on. The rise of COVID-19 in India and resulting lockdowns have far-reaching, societal, and financial consequences. COVID-19 has affected healthcare sectors, industry partners, and the surgeon-industry relationship, resource allocation, emphasizing education, and the strategic direction in 2020 which are likely to remain in 2021 and beyond. The COVID-19 outbreak has altered the orthopedic landscape for the foreseeable future.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the orthopedic industry?
The figures are not good. As per the estimates, Over the next 5 years, humankind is certain to lose 10 times more lives than COVID-19 because of its side effects and related restrictions.
India alone has 12 Million cases with severe bone and joint-related problems and out of these only 2 lakhs tend to undergo a knee replacement surgery every year making 8% of growth yearly. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the figures went down in 2020 and are following the same trend in 2021.
Developed nations like the USA where the population is almost 1/4th of India, observe around 7 lakh joint replacement surgeries every year. However, in India people are reluctant to take this surgery despite its higher success rate of more than 98% (Meaning 98% of people live a better and hassle-free life post-surgery) due to lack of knowledge. So, essentially, where there was already scope for patient education towards these improved benefits of medical science & technology, instead even the patients who wanted could not take the benefit of it.
The pandemic has also slowed down the number of fracture cases and related clinic visits to about 40-50 per cent and essentially eliminated the need for elective cases because of lockdown and social distancing - all of which have contributed to significant strain on orthopedic practices.
Not only this, even the implant sales revenue has observed severe dips in 2020 which have forced companies to conserve their capital and maintain liquidity during these trying times. Amid the current shutdown, orthopedic surgeons and doctors who are inevitably shouldering the burden of treating COVID infected patients are also observing interruptions in their businesses.
Medical tourism a major chunk of health revenues dropped substantially last year due to the cancellation of international flights affecting corporate hospitals, surgeon’s pays, and employee furlough.
Impact of COVID-19 on the practice of orthopedic and trauma
The increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases have severely affected the healthcare delivery to the patients in orthopedics and trauma.
The reduction in the number of beds and the operating room capacity has led to considerable delays in urgent and semi-elective surgeries leaving patients’ struggling with their daily activities because of severe pain and limited mobility.
Delaying surgery in patients with the most severe disease can lead to increased use of pain medications resulting in kidney and liver damage, internal bleeding, fractures and even disability for a lifetime. Extended wait times may lead to more complicated surgeries, more difficult recovery, and worse outcomes, including increased rates of revision surgery and reduced quality of life. Also, causing high long-term costs to patients, health systems and society.
Lockdowns, restrictions to movements, closure of Gyms, Parks and Public places have also resulted in serious bone-related diseases contributing to existing conditions and complications like obesity, cardiovascular disorders and altered immunity.
We cannot prevent the emergence of these dangerous viruses and their impact on society, but we can try to dampen their effects by taking proactive steps. Being an expert in orthopedic surgery and care, I would advise all the people of the nation to stay safe, visit and consult your doctor on time, follow a controlled diet, exercise regularly, and do not neglect your health.