The coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in just about every way. Not only has travel, work, shopping, and socializing been completely transformed, but so has the way Americans seek and receive medical care. Several hurdles have been faced over the past year due to the virus, affecting accessibility to healthcare providers amid concerns of exposure to the virus.
The way patients are handling their healthcare has evolved, likely forever. Here are some ways that COVID-19 has changed the habits and choices patients make in response to the pandemic.
1. Patients Are Holding Off on Medical Care
Prior to COVID-19, those with health coverage may have been quick to seek out medical care for any number of reasons, even when medical symptoms were apparently mild. But the current climate has prompted patients to be much more hesitant to seek out medical care for fear of exposure to the virus. Limited accessibility to healthcare — particularly during the early months of the pandemic — has also caused patients to delay medical care.
According to a recent poll conducted by Accenture, 70 percent of the 2,700 people surveyed claimed to have either deferred or canceled their healthcare appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical professionals have also played a role in canceled appointments, which means fewer patients may have been receiving the medical care and attention needed.
2. Virtual Care Is on the Rise
In-person medical care has decreased significantly due to fears of exposure, both on the part of patients and healthcare providers. But the advent of telemedicine has made it possible for Americans to continue receiving the medical care needed, despite the need to continue physically distancing. And healthcare providers can continue providing medical care and advice thanks to digital technology.
An increasing number of patients are opting for virtual care, even when in-person care is available. And many healthcare professionals currently only offer telehealth appointments exclusively and have eliminated conventional medical visits.
As a result, both healthcare professionals and patients alike have been forced to learn how to use digital technology appropriately to ensure adequate communication. While some apprehension and frustration may have been common early on in the pandemic, more and more Americans are welcoming it.
Nearly half of all patients polled in the Accenture survey said they are now receiving medical treatment at home instead of visiting their doctors’ offices in person.
Virtual care has given healthcare professionals the ability to not only continue providing care, but even to improve patient experience. And patients have come to appreciate the convenience of receiving medical care without the need to leave their homes. Further, telemedicine is generally more affordable than traditional in-person visits, which is particularly helpful for those without adequate health insurance.
3. Patients Have More Trust in the Healthcare Industry
The level of trust that patients had at the beginning of the pandemic may not have been very strong, particularly as accessibility issues were presented. But things appear to have improved in this area.
According to the Accenture survey, the overall level of trust in the healthcare system among Americans has increased. The poll found that 67 percent of the respondents claim to have more faith and trust in healthcare providers. And 47 percent of those surveyed said that medical responses have improved, while 40 percent reported that accessibility has improved thanks to the new digital channels of communication.
Having said all that, some things have not changed, including the need to cover the costs of medical care. Americans seeking medical advice and treatment are still required to pay for their interactions with medical professionals, including via telemedicine channels.
Instead of dishing out more to pay for rising health insurance premiums and deductibles, there are other options available to Americans, including health sharing ministries. Members of health sharing programs can benefit from flexibility and savings without compromising the quality of care they receive.