COVID-19 Impact on Doctor Appointments

Goals

To understand the impact of COVID-19 on doctor appointments, including information on changes in appointment scheduling and engagement as well as the types of appointments that patients are likely to skip, and general reaction to virtual appointments.

Early Findings

Overview

  • According to a report by McKinsey on the impact of COVID-19 published in early September 2020, 40% of respondents have canceled their upcoming appointments while an additional 12% have not scheduled or received care despite needing it.
  • A global survey by Cigna, "COVID-19 Global Impact Study: New Directions", finds that 54% respondents are now more likely to use virtual health for consultation or diagnosis. The survey also finds that "[t]he most popular usage of virtual health is generic health support (colds, flu, rashes, etc.) with 48% saying they would be interested to use virtual appointments in the future" although 35% say they do not have access to telehealth.
  • This shift towards telehealth is echoed in a report by ABC 7 News, which notes that "[at] UCSF alone, telehealth visits went from an average of 189 appointments per day prior to COVID-19, to 2,500 during the pandemic."
  • Medical professionals encourage patients to keep up with their medical appointments; however, UW Medicine, Washington's premier healthcare system, suggests that some appointments such as mental health therapy are better done virtually while some such as cancer screenings need to be in person. It also suggests that certain non-essential appointments such as microdermabrasion may be postponed.
  • Nonetheless, the situation surrounding the current pandemic is changing very quickly. Data as of July 2020 shows that more patients are returning to in-person appointments, with telehealth accounting for only 21% by mid July, a significant drop from its peak of 69% in April.

Summary

The initial one-hour research finds that overall there has been a decline in medical appointments since the outbreak of COVID-19 because patients either cancel the appointments or put off making new appointments. There has also been a growing acceptance in the usage of virtual health appointments. However, telehealth reached its peak in April and has dropped since then while more patients are returning to in-person appointments. The scope of this research is the United States. However, some global data points may be drawn as examples, in which case it will be clearly stated.

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