The global COVID-19 pandemic has had an unusual impact on healthcare systems—let alone the economy and your own day-to-day life.
In geographic areas where cases of COVID-19 have surged, hospitals are pushed to their limits of capacity. Meanwhile, in other areas hospitals are seeing dramatic decreases in admissions and revenue.
The decline is due to several factors. Social distancing, quarantine, and shelter-in-place orders are keeping people off the roads and at home. Some people are wary about going to the emergency room out of fear of unnecessarily exposing themselves to COVID-19. On top of that, hospitals and private facilities have temporarily suspended elective surgeries in order to support social distancing efforts, conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), and free up ventilators, beds, personnel, and supplies that may be needed for the care of COVID-19 patients.
If you or a loved one has had a hip, knee, shoulder, or other type of elective joint replacement surgery postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have mixed feelings right now. On the one hand, you're probably still looking forward to the hope of increased function and reduced pain that joint replacement can offer. On the other hand, you may feel concerned about having the procedure during such an interesting time in history. How soon should you re-schedule? What's the right way to proceed with your surgery in order to keep you and your loved ones better protected? Will it be safe to go to the hospital?
Many people have similar concerns. Reportedly, providers, healthcare systems, and local governments are working hard to implement measures to help protect patients, visitors, and staff for when the time comes to lift social distancing guidelines and resume elective procedures.
Here are a few ways hospitals and providers are preparing for the resumption of elective surgeries once this wave of the pandemic is over:
Healthcare providers and organizations are doing their part to prepare for the eventual return of elective procedures—and you can, too! Here are a few things to consider during this unusual time of quarantine and social distancing:
Ask your surgeon if you’re a candidate for telehealth or other home rehabilitation tools. Many physical therapy and occupational therapy clinics are now offering telehealth visits.1 This allows patients to receive therapy (via video-chat internet services) from the comfort and safety of their own homes. You may choose to consult with a physical therapist or occupational therapist before your surgery in order to maximize your strength, stamina, and overall health. This way, you may be more prepared going into your procedure. Not only can this minimize your pain and boost function now, but some research shows it may even improve your outcomes, cut costs, and reduce the risk of post-operative complications.2-4
Take care of your overall health. Managing stress may be easier said than done during a global pandemic, especially if you're living with a chronically painful joint. But stress can worsen pain and increase inflammation, which is known to delay tissue healing.5-6 Patients are often instructed to prepare for surgery by practicing healthy habits that optimize your physical and mental well-being (e.g., get a good night’s sleep; eat a nutritious diet; exercise daily; avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine; quit smoking; etc.).
Patients awaiting their joint replacement surgery may choose to view these unusual times as an opportunity to buckle down on their healthy habits and maximize their readiness for surgery. Be sure to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to learn more about how you can make the most out of your time in quarantine.