coronavirus

Amid Pandemic, Public Wary of Seeking Non-Coronavirus Care From Providers

Almost a quarter of adults said they have used telehealth services for an appointment

A new Morning Consult poll found that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 39 percent of U.S. adults would be likely to visit their primary doctor for appointments or treatment not related to the coronavirus. (Getty Images)
May 4, 2020 at 12:01 am ET
  • 39% of adults said they’re likely to visit their primary doctor for treatment not related to COVID-19, more than any other health care provider.

  • 62% said it is unlikely that they would visit a hospital during the pandemic for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus.

Health care companies have begun releasing their earnings results for the first quarter of 2020, with several reporting drops in revenue and profit year over year, despite many hospitals being busier than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some providers have linked their financial strains to the lack of regular, nonemergency appointments from patients, who fear that they could become infected with COVID-19 if they leave their homes.

A new Morning Consult poll suggests health care companies could continue to feel the pinch as long as the coronavirus lingers, with many Americans saying they’re unlikely to visit a variety of health care provider settings.

A majority of adults in every provider setting listed but one said they were unlikely to visit for treatment not related to the coronavirus. The exception was a primary doctor, whom a plurality (48 percent) of adults said they would be unlikely to visit amid the pandemic, compared with 39 percent who said they were likely to do so.

The poll was conducted April 29-30 among 2,201 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Hospitals, despite being overburdened in recent weeks in coronavirus hot spots such as New York City, have reported dips in revenue as a result of potential patients opting against receiving elective surgeries out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Some local and state governments have also ordered the postponement of such procedures. As a result, some health care companies have reduced staff or cut salaries to save money, while one major physician staffing firm has reportedly considered going as far as pursuing a bankruptcy filing.

According to the poll, 62 percent of adults said it is unlikely they will visit a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic for treatment unrelated to COVID-19 versus 21 percent who said it is likely that they would.

Public health advocates have seen an opportunity during the pandemic to call for the expansion of telehealth services in lieu of visiting a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. Telehealth has been promoted as a way to allow people who are immunocompromised or have disabilities to access care without having to leave their home and risk possible infection from COVID-19, which medical research has shown is much more troublesome for people with chronic conditions. 

Nearly a quarter of adults (23 percent) in the survey said they have used telehealth services for an appointment with a doctor, hospital or specialist in light of the pandemic.

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