PwC survey: Majority of consumers planning to spend less on their healthcare

A new survey found that a majority of consumers are expected to spend less on healthcare visits or prescription drugs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, published Wednesday (PDF) by PwC's Health Research Institute, looked into consumer behavior with regards to healthcare in the time of the pandemic. The survey comes as hospitals and physician practices struggle to make up lost revenue due to canceled visits and procedures.

PwC found that 32% of those surveyed said they have already made or plan to make adjustments to their spending on healthcare visits. Another 22% said the same thing about prescription drugs.

“Consumers with complex chronic illness and those in healthy families were more likely than other groups to say they would adjust their spending on healthcare visits or medications,” PwC said.

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Consumers who also get treatments in a hospital or clinic such as dialysis or chemotherapy have also seen their care be delayed.

PwC found that 30% of consumers who have had such treatments in a hospital or clinic delayed did so because their doctor delayed it. Another 28% said they delayed getting the treatment themselves, and 26% said there was no impact.

But 10% of respondents said their doctor recommended an alternative treatment plan.

Health systems have canceled or postponed elective surgical procedures because of the pandemic, and providers across all levels have seen a steep drop in patient volumes. The decline has hit practices and hospitals hard financially.

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But consumers were not just cutting back their trips to the doctor or hospital.

PwC found that 22% were adjusting their spending on medications.

“Decreasing adherence to medications may have negative long-term impacts on health status,” the survey said. “Providers might consider the retail pharmacy, with its skills in medication management, round-the-clock glucose monitoring and personalized health education, as a partner in helping drive adherence during the pandemic.”

The survey also found that 5% reported they or a family member used telehealth for the first time during the pandemic, and 88% of those new users would do so again.

The Trump administration has given flexibility to providers to get reimbursement under Medicare, which in part has led to greater adoption.

“The vast majority of new telehealth users were white, had insurance through an employer, had chronic conditions and were middle-aged,” PwC said.

PwC's survey was of 2,533 consumers who were interviewed from April 2-8.