HBI Deals+Insights / News

“First, do no harm”: Why patients don’t want to go to hospital

Florence Nightingale said “the very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm”. The hospital sector is yet to convince patients that they will not be infected with coronavirus in their facilities. For that reason, outpatient is normalising faster – HBI hears back to 90% demand in some sectors – and hospitals face a more challenging future.

Outpatient is benefiting from the same behaviours that saw B2C telehealth demand shoot up in the earlier stages of the virus: patients wanting to be as far away from a potential infection source as possible. Even in cases where acute care is needed, for aggressive tumours for example, the private outpatient oncology sector expects to benefit from a demand driven exodus from the inpatient sector where possible.

As one sector expert tells HBI: “For patients going into hospital is still psychologically a barrier. It’s reassuring to go into a small operation rather than a big hospital.” 

Imaging is reportedly back to 90% demand as, some in the sector claim, it is already very efficient so infection controls had little impact on operations. And even dentistry, which involves fingers-in-mouths, is coming back as patients don’t feel there is so much of a risk (a view not necessarily shared by the dentists treating them, however).

The forecasts for the hospital sector remain much bleaker than outpatient and that’s likely to continue unless it can convince patients that inpatient care is safe. Many will likely stay away until they absolutely have to come in, or opt for outpatient care if they can. Luckily the outmigration of care through tariff structures is already in process so some hospitals will have started building for an outpatient strategy. Others, however, are likely to get left behind and this reaction to the pandemic will only compound what was already a growing trend.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Rachel Lewis or call 0207 183 3779.