According to the CDC, care gaps include almost 41% of all American adults reported avoiding medical care during the pandemic
The pandemics have shown us the concerns patients have regarding how best to continue certain activities such as exercising outdoors, grocery shopping, and health care appointments. In many cases, patients either delayed or simply canceled doctor visits until “things returned to normal,” creating care gaps where health care appointments and procedures have either been endlessly delayed or outright forgotten.
All of these pandemic-related delays have resulted in a widening health care gap between the care patients need and what they actually received during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this gap will only widen as patients delay care even further.
How wide are the pandemic health care gaps?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 41% of all American adults reported avoiding medical care during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Of these, 12% avoided urgent or emergency care, likely due to those services being already overburdened with COVID-19 cases, while 31% avoided regular health care.
Furthermore, avoiding medical care during the pandemic was significantly higher among people with two or more underlying medical conditions, those with health insurance, Black and Hispanic adults, and younger adults between the ages of 18-24.1
Interestingly, a 2021 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation not only had similar findings, but found that spending on health care remained 7% below annual estimates.2 This may indicate that health care services have not just been delayed, but dropped altogether.
Finding gaps in patient care
Patients are returning to health care providers, but it is not just a simple matter of picking up where things were left off. Rather, health care providers need to assess precisely where there may be care gaps in the care patients received during the pandemic.
Embedding questions about gaps in care, such as asking about new or changes in symptoms for ongoing health issues, will often get patients to open up about lapses in ongoing medical treatment.
Telemedicine can help bridge the gap
Although the technology had been in place beforehand, telemedicine really came into its own during the pandemic.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, telemedicine use jumped from less than 1% prior to the pandemic to 13% during the first six months.3 Fortunately, patients under Medicare can get a brief, virtual check-in with a computer or smart phone, which is covered under Medicare Part B.4
Patients who have put off medical care are starting to come back to see their providers, and the challenge is not just getting patients back to their regular health care routine, but determining where care gaps may have developed during the pandemic.
- Czeisler MÉ, Marynak K, Clarke KE, et al. Delay or avoidance of medical care because of COVID-19-related concerns — United States, June 2020. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69:1250-1257.
- Kaiser Family Foundation. Early 2021 Data Show No Rebound in Health Care Utilization. August 2021.
- Kaiser Family Foundation. Outpatient Telehealth Use Soared Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic But Has Since Receded. August 2021.
- Virtual Check-ins.gov.