The spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) has caused disruption to many aspects of routine medical care with the immediate impact being seen in the drastic reduction of hospital / doctor visits. Recent results from a GlobalData survey show that 79% of 426 participants have avoided hospitals at all costs due to Covid-19 despite having a medical complaint. Additionally, 43% of participants cancelled all appointments, while 36% opted to only contact the doctor by phone or email.
In the UK, particularly in England, accident and emergency (A&E) attendance fell by 40% between March and April. This figure slightly recovered between April and May, but attendance is still low in comparison to pre-lockdown data. In the US, emergency visits were down by 42% in April when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 data.
The reluctance to visit hospitals for appointments is mainly due to concerns regarding the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a high-risk environment. Patients have instead been using the increased availability of telehealth services such as remote patient monitoring (RPM).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published guidance, allowing companies to expand the distribution of hospital devices for use in patients’ homes. Numerous companies have been taking advantage of this by producing and repurposing devices to increase their remote functionality. The US Government has also passed several bills to support RPM, with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implementing plans to reimburse healthcare providers for certain RPM services. Using telemedicine services drastically reduces the number of secondary or tertiary infections that could occur en route to the hospitals or while waiting for care. GlobalData expects the use of these services to continue, even as lockdown measure are eased globally.
Some of the reduction in visits has also been due to the limited resources available for non-Covid-19 patients as many institutions delayed or cancelled treatment. It is, therefore, no surprise that some patients have decided against seeking treatment despite needing medical care. The reduction in visits was predominantly higher for patients suffering from chronic conditions. GlobalData expects that there will be a considerable increase in emergency cases due to delayed presentation, particularly for these time-sensitive ailments.