Frequent reports of missed medical care in US adults during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Frequent reports of missed medical care in US adults during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | January 22, 2021
Two out of five individuals delayed or missed medical care in the early phase of the pandemic--from March through mid-July 2020--according to a new survey from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The survey of 1,337 U.S. adults found that 544, or 41 percent, delayed or missed medical care during the survey period. Among the 1,055 individuals who reported needing medical care, 29 percent (307 respondents), indicated fear of transmission of COVID-19 as the main reason. Seven percent (75 respondents) reported financial concerns as the main reason for delaying or missing care.

The findings were published online in JAMA Network Open on January 21.

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"Understanding the reasons individuals forgo care is important in order to design policy and clinical interventions to limit the extent of forgone care," says lead author Kelly Anderson, a doctoral student in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. "This is particularly relevant as COVID-19 cases are surging again."

During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. health care system experienced major disruptions including the closures of medical practices, cancellation of elective procedures, and the shift of many health services to telehealth. As a result of the disruptions, many individuals missed or postponed medical care which can lead to increased health complications, cost, and delayed diagnosis.

The survey, part of Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Civic Life and Public Health Survey, was fielded from July 7 to July 22, 2020. The sample was drawn from NORC's Amerispeak Panel, a nationally representative online sample of U.S. households. Respondents were asked whether they missed several types of care, including doses of prescription medications, scheduled preventive care visits, scheduled outpatient medical or mental health visits, elective surgical procedures, or care for new severe physical or mental health issues.

Among the 1,337 survey respondents, 29 percent (387 respondents) reported missing a preventive care visit, 26 percent (343 respondents) reported missing an outpatient general medical appointment, 8 percent (108 respondents) reported missing one or more doses of a prescription medication, 8 percent (105 respondents) reported missing an outpatient mental health appointment, 6 percent (77 respondents) reported missing an elective surgery, and 3 percent (38 respondents) reported not receiving health care for a new severe mental or physical health issue.

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