The Impact of Delayed Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Over the last year, the pandemic has caused numerous challenges for individuals experiencing conditions outside of COVID-19. JAMA Health Forum’s survey, “Impact of Coronavirus on U.S. Households Survey,” conducted through Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio, found that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have reported that individuals in their household were unable to receive or delayed receiving care for serious medical conditions. Out of those who indicated they received delayed care, 57% reported that, as a result, they experienced negative health consequences. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gathered similar findings from a June 2020 survey, reporting that, “among 4,975 U.S. adult respondents, 40.9% reported having delayed or avoided any medical care, including urgent or emergency care (12.0%) and routine care (31.5%), because of concerns about COVID-19.”
A notable insight from JAMA Health Forum’s survey among U.S. patients indicates that 69% of respondents reported that non-financial access barriers contributed to instances of delayed care. Preliminary data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) COVID-19 Summer 2020 Supplement and preliminary 2019 MCBS data shows that 45% of respondents reported that their decision to forego care was because they did not want to put themselves at risk for contracting COVID-19 by visiting a medical facility. Additionally, more 38% of Medicare beneficiary respondents indicated that their healthcare office had closed or reduced available on-site appointments. These insights present unique opportunities for healthcare organizations to shift their care practices in order to streamline care delivery and support patient safety.
How Telehealth Can Help Ensure Patient and Staff Safety
Healthcare organizations around the world are working to quickly adopt their care practices to the changes brought on by the pandemic. To reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, many patients are looking for alternatives to in-person care. The healthcare industry saw a strong increase in virtual care visits at the onset of the pandemic and continues to see a rise in demand for virtual care offerings. The CDC reported that telehealth visits were up by 154% during the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Doximity’s 2020 State of Telemedicine Report indicates that the number of patients reporting at least one virtual health visit has increased by 57% since the start of the pandemic. The number of individuals with a chronic illness who reported at least one virtual health visit has increased by a staggering 77%. Healthcare organizations that implement virtual care efforts can help bridge the gap between providers and patients that has been brought on by COVID-19. A virtual care offering not only helps reduce the spread of COVID-19, but also helps decreases wait time for patients, allowing them to receive treatment as soon as possible.
Supporting Virtual Care Efforts with Remote Friendly Tools
As hospitals and health systems transition to providing virtual care, it’s increasingly important that they are equipped with tools that support them as they engage in virtual care efforts and can be accessed on and off-site. RLDatix PolicyStat, a cloud-based system that houses an organization’s policies, procedures and important documents, can be accessed remotely by healthcare staff, enabling them to search, access and edit policies from anywhere, at any time. The PolicyStat tool can also integrate with other modules in the RLDatix suite, allowing providers to track if specific policies have been linked to safety events across the organization.
Virtual care is becoming an integral way for providers to connect with patients. As the world adapts to delivering and experiencing care with new tools, it will be increasingly important that organizations strive to improve virtual care experiences by prioritizing patient feedback. Collecting patients’ responses is a start but it is imperative to implement patient feedback to drive change within the organization.
As we move into a new era of the pandemic, one of hope and reflection, we’re taking a key learning with us: virtual care efforts are here to stay. Delayed care has been a serious challenge facing patients throughout the pandemic. Healthcare organizations have a unique opportunity to leverage virtual tools to reduce instances of delayed care and support patient safety.
Have a tip to share on how to reduce instances of delayed care? Let us know below.