Our Market Scenario Planner tool provides current and projected inpatient and outpatient volume estimates for any geographic area in the U.S. This year’s annual update providing 2021−2026−2031 volume estimates is now live. Access the tool here to see volume estimates for your market and read on for the top takeaways from this year’s updates.
Takeaway #1: The pandemic effectively put a two-year pause on health system volume growth—recovery beyond pre-pandemic baselines will be slowed by the pandemic’s ripple effects, including a tight labor market and accelerated site-of-care shifts.
As detailed in our recent blog, volume in 2021 had approached, but not exceeded, pre-pandemic levels for most hospital-based volume categories, including emergency department visits, inpatient admissions, and inpatient surgeries. In 2022 and beyond, many Covid-19 related volume suppression factors will resolve, including care avoidance for safety concerns and elective surgery postponements due to capacity limitations. But ripple effects will continue to suppress volumes and slow recovery compared to expectations pre-pandemic. For instance, nationwide ambulatory care jobs were down 5.1% and hospital jobs were down 4.1% at the end of 2021 compared to where employment would have been without a pandemic, according to one report.
Despite near-term headwinds, we expect outpatient volume to increase 7.3% by 2026 and 14.9% by 2031. Inpatient volume is expected to decline -1.0% by 2026 and then grow 0.6% by 2031.