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Extent of Deferred Care During COVID Stresses Necessity of Recall

Posted by Mike Rigert on Jun 7, 2021 8:00:00 AM

We knew that there were major gaps in Americans getting much-needed healthcare during COVID, but the results of a new study reveal just how widespread that neglected care was.

A whopping two-thirds (66 percent) of patients delayed or cancelled medical appointments during the pandemic, mostly due to fear of contracting the virus but also because of loss of health insurance or the cost of care, according to a new 2021 survey by Tempus. Thirty-six percent of respondents also said they postponed care due to the hassle of scheduling an appointment.

More alarmingly, a majority of the patients surveyed said they deferred treatments of existing ailments—including cancer—while also postponing much-needed preventative care for chronic care conditions. Of those that deferred care, 83 percent were suffering from COVID-19 comorbidities, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and lung diseases.

Of the seven most common preventative health screenings—which include skin cancer, HPV/Pap, breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer—only 2 percent of respondents knew the age guidelines for all seven types of screenings and just 16 percent knew at least five of the guidelines.

The report’s findings show that not only did Americans stay away from the doctor’s office during the pandemic for more pedestrian illnesses like colds and the flu, but also that large segments of society avoided preventative and chronic conditions care. During the pandemic, 86 percent of doctors expressed concern that their patients with chronic care conditions weren’t getting the care they needed.

The human cost is compounded by the economic toll of chronic care. The total cost of chronic disease in the U.S. is $3.7 billion, and delays in care only drive that figure higher. It’s estimated that 60 percent of American adults suffer from at least one chronic disease and 40 percent have multiple conditions.

This all dramatically underscores the importance of healthcare organizations resuming or scaling up recall efforts for preventive and chronic care patients. Providers can help patients get much-need care while also filling in empty slots in their schedule and recouping revenue lost during COVID.

An effective and efficient automated patient recall strategy that yields optimal results requires two things—text messaging and automation.

  1. Text messaging: The ability to send text messages, including visit reminders and other notifications, allows you to reach patients where they are and according to the latest patient communication preferences. Take the hassle out of scheduling an appointment—texting is how patients want to interact with providers in an increasingly more consumer-driven, post-pandemic world.

  2. Automation: The ability to automate sending out large numbers of preventive screening reminders or recall messages for chronic care conditions gives you speed and efficiency while minimizing staff time required for recall. With group texting, you can send preventive or chronic care reminders to patients based on their specific diagnosis or other demographics to help generate more responses and visit confirmations.

A text-first digital patient engagement platform that enables you to send automated recall messages, appointment reminders, and post-visit follow-up notifications will help you eliminate gaps in care for preventive screenings and chronic care patients. Paired with a more refined appointment workflow that supports virtual care or in-person visits, the reenergized recall strategy can go a long ways in eliminating gaps in care for preventive screenings and chronic care patients.

Most importantly, a robust recall strategy will ensure that your patients get the care they need when they need it in order to improve outcomes and experiences.

To learn more about how more effective patient communication and a more streamlined appointment workflow can supercharge your recall efforts, check out the guide, “A Perfect Appointment Workflow: A Path to Improved Patient Outcomes and Increased Revenue.”

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Mike Rigert

Written by Mike Rigert

Mike Rigert has been a content writer in marketing and communications with several technology companies for over a decade. At SR Health, Rigert is tasked with creating compelling content that helps healthcare providers overcome their patient communication inefficiencies to make their organizations more profitable. When he’s not typing away on his computer, he enjoys discussing sci-fi, reading nonfiction, and eating chocolate.