23 November 2008

Declining Patient Volumes?

WhiteCoat notes a 7% decline in patient volumes in his ED, which he attributes to the poor economy. My initial though was that a poor economy would do the opposite: more people would lose insurance and meaningful access to healthcare, so they would have to turn to Our Awesome Safety Net [tm] of the ER for their care. WhiteCoat does mention the migrant labor population as being in some way related, so I suppose that might make sense: as jobs dry up, workers leave. That got me wondering whether we might see something of the same effect in the Great, Damp Northwest. So I ran our most recent numbers, compared against last year:So I guess that'd be a "no." Volumes are up a few percent over last year, consistent with the year-over-year increases we've been seeing this decade. Not much evidence for any short-term effect over the last couple of months, either. I suppose that as the economy coninutes to crater, and we start to see the downstream effect of job losses, we may get a drop-off in volume. I kinda doubt it, though. We don't have a significant migrant population in our area, so we shouldn't see the demographic shifts Whitecoat describes. I do think the bad economy will further drive up our volumes.

The bad news for us will be that there will be fewer commercially insured patients, and more Medicaid and uninsured patients. This will drive our reimbursement down significantly, I suspect. I'm not complaing about that, mind you -- our losses will be a tiny fraction of the suffering of those who wind up unemployed, foreclosed or what-have-you in this impending recession.

Only time will tell, but I have a sinking feeling that this recession will be long and deep. I hope I'm wrong, or that Obama and his team are clever enough to figure out something to fix the economy. But the fundamentals are looking pretty grim just now, and I don't see any governmental intervention having much effect for quite a while.

Boy, this post took an unintended depresasing turn. Sorry about that. Wait, I know just what will cheer you all up: Puppies!


Gingerale said...

Would a per capita look yield a different conclusion? Ach. I just realized, that would require monthly population data, not just yearly. Hmm.

ladyk73 said...

Puppies! They were so cute!

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