Millions fear for safety in clinical settings - worries heightened among chronically ill as 1 in 4 put off routine appointments
1 December 2020: New research reveals that during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of consumers have actively avoided seeking in-person medical care due to concerns for their safety, with more than a third (38%) keeping away for fear of catching coronavirus in hospitals, doctors surgeries, and medical clinics.
According to the S3 Connected Health research, which was conducted among 4,000 US and UK consumers, overall nearly 80m Americans (24%) and 10m Brits (15%) have actively avoided seeking in-person medical care during the pandemic. On average, since COVID started: 13% have cancelled an in-person medical appointment, and 18% have put off scheduling or attending routine screening tests due to fear for their safety in hospitals, doctors surgeries and medical clinics.
Worryingly, these figures rise to an average of 1 in 4 among the chronically ill – with 24% of people with long-term or chronic health conditions putting off routine appointments, 23% actively avoiding in-person care, and 19% cancelling in-clinic visits.
The findings raise valid concerns over the long-term impact this scale of medical avoidance could have on population health, the management of chronic disease, and already strained healthcare systems.
Overcoming the fear factor
When asked why they have avoided seeking in-person treatment:
- 38% fear catching the virus in an in-person clinical setting
- 40% do not feel safe from COVID-19 in a clinical setting and would only visit in an emergency
- 34% visited a clinical setting during the pandemic and no longer feel safe doing so
Since the beginning of the pandemic, global healthcare systems have made monumental efforts to increase the use of digital technology to help reduce in-person contact and curb the spread of the virus.
A quarter (25%) admitted their desire to avoid clinical settings means they are now more likely to use digital healthcare solutions, such as apps and connected devices, although a similar number (28%) did not know digital solutions were already an option.
In fact, 71% of all respondents said they would be willing to use digital healthcare solutions to support or supplement in-clinic care if offered by their GP.
Not only did 38% of US and UK consumers feel that digital healthcare would be safer than in-clinic appointments due to COVID-19, but 40% believe a shift to digital health will alleviate pressure on healthcare providers during the pandemic by reducing the need for in-clinic care.
Benefits of digital health:
- Greater convenience (42%)
- Peace of mind and daily assurance (35%)
- Better access to healthcare (35%)
- Ability to proactively manage own health (33%)
Dr Kevin Hanley, Senior Clinical Consultant at S3 Connected Health, said: “It’s worrying that so many consumers – especially those with pre-existing health conditions – are avoiding or cancelling in-person medical appointments due to fear for their safety in clinical settings. If this isn’t resolved quickly, and consumers continue to put off treatment, it could result in patients being treated for more serious conditions further down the line, and put even more pressure on healthcare providers as we battle subsequent waves of the pandemic.
“With millions of us facing winter lockdowns, digital healthcare solutions – from video consultations to smart health devices – could offer a vital life-line to consumers in need of medical care: helping monitor our general health and wellbeing, enabling care provision to continue remotely, and negating the risk of infection by minimizing the need for face-to-face meetings between doctors and patients. Wider spread adoption would likely help to combat consumer fear – and improve patient outcomes at the same time.”
Improving healthcare in the COVID-era
When asked how their healthcare experience could be improved, 30% of US and UK consumers said they would like to see more ‘virtual-first’ appointments, 28% want in-clinic care reserved for emergencies only, while 27% want access to wearable devices that allow them to track their health at home.
Two in 10 (21%) would also like healthcare systems to adopt a ‘remote-by-default’ care model, meaning appointments would always be conducted remotely, unless there’s a specific need to be seen in-person.
Respondents also believe increasing the use of digital healthcare solutions would help control the spread of COVID-19 (47%), have a positive impact on the future of healthcare (45%), and help healthcare providers focus more on urgent health treatments (31%).
Jim O’Donoghue, President at S3 Connected Health, added: “COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the rate at which digital technologies have been incorporated into healthcare systems across the globe, sparked by the need to facilitate care provision remotely and minimize the risk of infection by reducing face-to-face meetings between doctors and patients. This shift to remote and virtual care will be a long-term reality for the industry, so it’s reassuring to see the appetite for digital health is there.”
All research findings are presented in S3 Connected Health’s report: The Growth of Digital Health in the COVID-19 Era downloadable here.
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This survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of S3 Connected Health, among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK and 2,000 US adults (aged 18+). 2,066 respondents identified as having a long-term or chronic health condition. Fieldwork was carried out between 21st – 26th October 2020. OnePoll are members of ESOMAR and employ members of the MRS.
About S3 Connected Health:
S3 Connected Health partners with pharma and medtech to create and operate digital health solutions and connected medical devices that improve the lives of people with chronic conditions.
They specialize in cloud-based digital therapeutics and digital therapy management solutions, and medical device software and IoMT solutions for implantable, wearable, and hospital-based devices.
Their regulatory-compliant solutions enable the capture of real-world data to support access, reimbursement, and value-based care, and create insights to enhance operational efficiency, increase clinical effectiveness, and improve patient services.
Using experience mapping and behavioral science techniques to fully understand the needs of patients, clinicians, payors, and providers, they create custom solutions that improve healthcare delivery and outcomes.
For over 18 years’, in over 50 countries, across 20 therapy areas, S3 Connected Health have delivered award-winning solutions that are scalable and secure.
For more information visit www.S3ConnectedHealth.com.