Survey: 72% of consumers have changed healthcare use since COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has impacted the healthcare of 72% of consumers, a recent survey found, with a majority saying they have already delayed or plan to put off health procedures.

The survey, released Thursday by the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), underscores the issues providers face in convincing consumers to return for in-person care that has been delayed due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic has put consumers in a healthcare tailspin: They want to be tested for COVID-19, and for that, they rank their doctor’s office as the place they would feel most comfortable,” said Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of ACHP, in a statement. “However, for all other health care services and treatment, consumers want to delay visiting health care facilities altogether.”

The survey found 41% delayed their healthcare services. Another 42% feel uncomfortable going to a hospital for any medical treatment, and 45% don’t want to go to an urgent care or walk-in clinic.

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The hesitancy is likely to continue as 74% of respondents believe there will be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall or winter. Another 38% said they would delay scheduling elective procedures for another six months, and 27% won't go to a hospital for a diagnostic test.

But while consumers are scared of going to a doctor’s office, they don’t feel the same way about heading to a pharmacy.

Nearly half of respondents reported feeling very comfortable picking up a prescription at their local pharmacy and speaking to a pharmacist about their medication, the survey said.

Only 9% of those surveyed who have gotten a prescription in the past three months used home delivery, compared with 90% who used a local retail pharmacy.

“Consumers’ confidence in pharmacists is impressive with significant percentages filling their prescriptions at a retail pharmacy over the past three months and stating they would feel comfortable getting tested for COVID-19 at a pharmacy,” said Susan Cantrell, CEO of the AMCP, in a statement.

Pharmacists could also play a role in educating citizens about the pandemic and instilling confidence to get the care they need.

“Pharmacy colleagues look at education and improving trust in overall healthcare system,” Cantrell said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

The steep drop in patient volume has hit physician practices and hospitals very hard financially. Nearly half of independent medical practices have reported they had to lay off or furlough staff, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association.

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While consumers are scared to go to a doctor’s office, they are very eager to try telehealth.

The survey found 28% used some type of virtual care over the past three months, which is nearly triple the previously documented average. Of those people who used telehealth, 89% said they were satisfied with the experience.

In addition, 46% of consumers overall are comfortable with trying telehealth.

Telehealth use has exploded during the pandemic as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave providers more flexibility to reimburse Medicare for its deployment.

Leede Research conducted the survey on behalf of the associations. The firm interviewed 1,263 adults from May 1-6 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.