Scared Sick: Seeking Care During A Pandemic

How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Impacted Individuals Willingness to Seek Medical Treatment

Everyone hates the mental game of being sick. Whether it’s an extra painful headache or a prolonged stomach ache, health issues can send the most composed individuals down rabbit holes of possible health issues. For many, the easiest way to relieve illness-caused stress is a quick trip to the doctor’s office to get a diagnosis and hopefully some health tips. But what do you do if the doctor’s office isn’t the healthiest place to be?

This has been the problem for so many individuals across the world for the past year, as the mysterious contagion patterns of COVID-19 make hospitals and doctors’ offices minefields for possible infection. Unwell individuals have to do a cost-benefit analysis of whether a trip to the doctor will actually put them at risk for a far scarier illness: COVID-19.

But has this consideration kept people out of doctors’ offices? That question prompted medical malpractice experts at Weiss & Paarz to conduct a survey on how willingness to seek medical care has changed over the course of the pandemic. Their results are pretty striking.

According to responses from over 1,900 people, the survey found that there was a 19% decrease in willingness to seek medical care over the course of 2020. That means nearly 1 in 5 people were less likely to head to the doctors’ office for a serious medical concern.

So, how were people keeping healthy? According to the survey, the big answer was telehealth. There was an increase of over 10% of individuals that sought out telehealth in 2020 as compared to the previous year. This rapid increase in telehealth has transformed how many Americans understand healthcare, and the necessity for telehealth systems spurred rapid innovation across telehealth technologies.

Still, telehealth isn’t the solution to every medical issue that individuals face. According to the survey, nearly 70% of Americans put off some form of medical care, be it a doctor’s appointment or a surgery due to COVID-19. Notably, it’s to be expected that different populations delayed care at different rates, with income, gender, and race playing a big role in the decision to delay care. This statistic just adds to the laundry list of inequitable health experiences among communities of color over the course of the pandemic.

The bottom line is, medical care – even if it’s something like an annual physical – is critical to overall health and wellbeing. Delaying these types of appointments can have long-term, costly implications.

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