Economic Impact of the Omicron variant on Radiology Practices in India.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on radiology practices across India. Although the CT chest and chest radiographs had a spike during the 1st and 2nd wave of covid in the country, the Omicron variant has significantly less effect on the lungs thus reducing CT chest and chest radiograph imaging. This is good for the patient who has significantly lesser mortality. However, the fear of the Omicron variant has caused a significant decrease in imaging of non-covid related illnesses due to hesitancy among patients to come to the hospital during the pandemic for non-covid illnesses in the fear of getting covid in hospitals. This is causing a severe delay in the imaging of non-covid illnesses, their diagnosis, and treatment, which itself is a silent pandemic of sorts. Hospital preparations to expand covid crisis capacity are further diminishing the amount of appropriate medical imaging that can be safely performed. Although economic recessions generally tend to result in decreased health care expenditures, radiology groups have never experienced an economic shock that is simultaneously exacerbated by the need to restrict the availability of imaging. Outpatient-heavy practices have felt the biggest impact of these changes, but all imaging volumes have decreased. Anecdotal experience suggests that radiology practices have 50%–70% decrease in imaging volume, depending on the location of practice and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in each region. Administrators and practice leaders must be proactive with practice modifications and financial maneuvers that can position them to emerge from this pandemic in the most viable economic position. It is possible that this crisis will have lasting effects on the structure of the radiology field.
The Omicron pandemic will further stress radiology practices throughout the country to an extent not previously encountered; practices will have many variables to consider and important decisions to make in order to ensure financial viability.
Keywords: Omicron, Covid-19, Radiology, Economic Impact, India.