America’s health care system looks down the barrel of the gun

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Plagued by rising costs, the U.S. healthcare system is under immense pressure, as supply chain concerns, inflation, labor shortages and geopolitical tensions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are rapidly beginning to lose resilience.

After experiencing a two-year health crisis, which saw private and public health facilities deal with an exodus of anxious patients, an additional element of concern now hangs over health officials to seek alternative solutions to problems. croissants.

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The data revealed that in 2020, health spending per person averaged $11,945, with total national health spending increasing by 1.9% in the same year. Even with a high spending bill of $4,000 more than other OECD and high-income countries; the government is now struggling to control the growing problems.

As tensions both at home and abroad escalate, healthcare costs, from basic insurance premiums to medical equipment, are expected to rise by 6.5% according to the Institute. of PwC’s health research, because the pandemic has not yet completely disappeared.

“The American healthcare system is coming to a time of transition, where we need to focus instead on how we can solve current problems, instead of hammering away at what is in the past. We’ve seen where our mistakes can lie, and whether it’s the medical equipment we use, the way we administer patients – we need faster and more reliable innovation practices,” said a spokesperson for Soma Tech International, a leading supplier of medical equipment.

With healthcare facilities facing mounting strains, US public health officials are now looking to the federal government for support. But with disruption already well underway in 2022, how the coming months will unfold not just from a consumer perspective, but more so for healthcare professionals facing health constraints.

Russia and Ukraine

Several weeks of ongoing tension between Russia and neighboring Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24 have now become the backdrop for lingering medical supply chain problems, leading some experts to anticipate that this will seriously affect the US healthcare system in the months to come.

The transport of medical goods, equipment and other supplies is at an impasse, after Russia closed its airspace to more than 36 countries, including the United States. With some medical products being exported from western China, the closed airspace could mean that raw materials for medical supplies would have to be rerouted.

Freight rerouting could mean extended travel periods, longer transit times, increased costs and increased delays. Even with some countries, including the United States, looking to develop and manufacture most of their medical supplies, necessary raw materials that are not mined in the country can impact end costs.

A report by Premier found that aluminum, nickel, titanium, neon gas and iron are the most widely used materials in surgical items and medical equipment. As sanctions imposed by the Biden administration piled up, steel mined from Russia faced significant delays for manufacturing plants.

Dependence on materials and goods mined and imported from China, Russia, Ukraine or neighboring countries has begun to impact supply and demand, putting health officials in a difficult situation. difficult.

Labor shortages

While it’s not just smaller, less influential industries that have experienced labor shortages over the past two months, health care advisors are now bracing for an even tougher year due to labor shortages. labor and rising costs.

On average, the cost of medical labor expenditures in respiratory departments increased by 22% in September 2021. Despite lower volumes, surgical departments also saw increases in labor costs , with hourly rates for respiratory therapists and lower staffing levels have driven up overall health care costs. to new heights.

Demand for healthcare personnel in many departments has reached near critical levels in recent months as staff have expressed concerns about extended working hours, emotional and physical exhaustion and fluctuating hospitalizations and treatments related to COVID-19.

Healthcare facilities have yet to receive any indication of relief as mounting problems have now prompted staff to resign en masse, with nearly one in five healthcare workers quitting their jobs during the pandemic.

Labor and personnel issues are not the main reason healthcare workers leave their jobs, but rather low wages. In 2020, nurses at Kaiser Permanente planned a mass strike, as the company sought to implement wage and benefit cuts.

Coronavirus vaccines have also been the subject of mass quits, with some local New York hospitals suspending maternity services for dozens of staff who quit after refusing to receive vaccines.

Across the industry, labor shortages have hit the healthcare system, and while it’s not coming from a financial standpoint, per se, additional injunctions have increased staff and labor. left completely.

Pharmaceutical supply issues

Perhaps the overarching issue regarding supply chain issues has been overlooked when it comes to pharmaceutical supply and demand.

A survey conducted by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), which sampled approximately 500 healthcare professionals from all 50 states, found that 83% of them said that the supply of drugs and medicines has become a growing problem these last years.

Even more, of the 500 people surveyed, 90% said the global drug supply chain is not reliable at all in times of crisis, and more than 70% said their trust in the supply chain had completely eroded in recent years.

It is not only recently that we have experienced supply chain constraints when it comes to pharmaceuticals and their distribution. These issues have dogged the US healthcare industry for years.

The pandemic isn’t the only thing that completely opened up the drug supply problem in the United States, but rather it was the increased demand for low-quality, cheap drugs a decade earlier that left the manufacturers at the source of the problem.

Now, even in the past 24 odd months of the pandemic, the problems have simply escalated as resource depletion and dependency on providers have caused healthcare workers to prescribe alternative solutions or to decide which patients are best suited to receive pharmaceutical treatment first.

Even as the United States implements new policies and regulations for manufacturers regarding expected medical supply shortages, a detailed risk management assessment has yet to alleviate the issues some healthcare workers are facing.

Government assistance and intervention

To date, the government and its network of subsidiaries have succeeded in taking several actions in an ongoing effort to better control the current state of affairs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued various regulatory and technical guidelines for drug and medical device manufacturers to ensure that a list of shortages is constantly updated.

The FDA also began researching innovative ways to establish a more transparent communication channel between manufacturer, supplier, and consumer. Regulatory policies regarding communication between manufacturers and staff were one of the major gaps that the FDA was able to fill recently.

Back in DC, the White House was also able to make some adjustments to its plans, expanding domestic production of critical and high-demand drugs. Other White House procurement plans led by the FDA have seen some suppliers buy medical and pharmaceutical products from domestic manufacturers rather than importing.

The essential

Although the government has gained some momentum to make adjustments, progress has been relatively slow. Persistent problems, both domestically and internationally, have pushed America’s healthcare system to the brink.

Unless there is concrete intervention, consumers, manufacturers and suppliers will see their costs rise sharply in the coming months, possibly until 2023.

There is no clear sign yet of how the year will play out, with the ongoing war and global supply constraints compressing all markets – the ball is now in the air, and it It is up to the government to decide how and when it will fall.

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