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Considerable Decreases Seen in Health Care Use During COVID-19

FRIDAY, Nov. 6, 2020 -- During the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a considerable decrease in preventive and elective health care use, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in JAMA Network Open.

Christopher M. Whaley, Ph.D., from the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and colleagues examined heath insurance claims for patients from all 50 states who receive health insurance through their employers. The authors sought to examine changes in health care use for March and April of 2020 compared with trends in 2019 and 2018.

Data were analyzed for 5.6, 6.4, and 6.8 million U.S. individuals with employer-sponsored insurance in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The researchers found that the regression-adjusted use rate per 10,000 persons changed by −28.2 and −64.5 in March and April 2020, respectively, for colonoscopies; −149.1 and −342.1 for mammograms; −300.5 and −369.0 for child vaccines; and −581.1 and −1,465 for in-person office visits. There were increases noted in use of telemedicine services (227.9 and 641.6 per 10,000 persons). Smaller reductions in in-person visits were seen for patients living in zip codes with lower incomes or majority racial/ethnic-minority populations, and they also had lower rates of telemedicine adoption.

"The results of this cross-sectional study highlight the profound shock to the health care delivery system created by the COVID-19 pandemic," the authors write. "If the current trends continue, innovative approaches to ensure patients receive timely access to important care will be required."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to Castlight Health and other companies in the health care industry.

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Posted: November 2020

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