Jul 29, 2021

4 things we learned about healthcare habits and preferences after a year of pandemic living

As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 around the country, many of us are returning to some semblance of normal. That means catching up with friends and family — and also catching up on other things we missed, like taking care of routine doctors’ appointments. We recently conducted a survey of 1,500 Americans and 500 medical professionals to try to understand the impact COVID-19 had on peoples’ access to care and ability to follow through on their doctors’ advice. And it turns out that more than half of people we surveyed said they hadn’t visited their doctor in a year, which has major implications for staying on top of their health. Here’s a summary of our top takeaways.

The pandemic made it easy to de-prioritize routine care — but getting back on track is a key priority.

This lost year of appointments has major implications, and says a lot about how this health crisis prompted many to de-prioritize routine care. Half of those surveyed said they’ve put off seeing a doctor within the past year. A further three in 10 (29%) haven’t seen a doctor in more than six months. The backlog of appointments is so significant, in fact, that 2 in 5 actually said they plan to take time off work to catch up on medical appointments.

A hybrid model of care is here to stay.

The way that many doctors and healthcare organizations rapidly pivoted to accommodate virtual support was a shining moment for care delivery, enabling more people to have important conversations with their doctors safely. And while the telehealth capabilities from this rapid digitization are here to stay, our survey found that 53% of people actually prefer to seek medical care in person. (One in five said they wouldn’t mind continuing with a mix of both in-person and telehealth.) In fact, regardless of their preferences, most (59%) people said they think in-person appointments offer better medical care.

Medical professionals, too, believe a mix of media is in our future: 71% of the 500 we polled agreed telehealth has made it easier to see more patients, though a staggering 93% said there are certain things that telehealth just can’t replicate.

Appointments can be overwhelming — and that makes it harder to remember important details.

More than half of the people we polled said they feel nervous, anxious or overwhelmed during appointments, and 49% said they feel lost when their doctor uses complex medical terms. That lack of accessibility makes it really challenging for people to understand, remember, and follow through on their care. We hear similar things from Abridge users, who say Abridge helps give them peace of mind, because otherwise, it’s hard to remember the key details discussed at appointments. 44% of the people we polled said they struggle to remember all the information their doctor tells them, and 48% wished it was easier to keep track of next steps.

More than half of the 500 medical professionals we surveyed tended to agree: 56% estimated their patients retain less than half of the information shared with them, and 70% said their patients often call to ask for advice that was already shared. This is an important challenge to address: Almost all the medical professionals (93%) we surveyed stressed the importance of patients understanding and following through with their care plan. Clinicians specifically said patients were most likely to forget medication details and next steps or follow-ups — arguably the most important aspects of the appointment.

Recording is becoming more mainstream.

Just as the pandemic catalyzed a broader digitization of health, it also influenced attitudes around further integrating technology to make aspects of understanding and following through on care easier — the very challenges that the pandemic laid bare. Specifically, recording visits is becoming more mainstream, with 44% of respondents would be interested in recording a doctor’s visit to better recall details and next steps. More significantly, 59% of providers would recommend their patients use their phones to record information about next steps, given how important it is to understand and follow through on the care plan.

Overall, the results from our survey made it clear that the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt across people’s health journeys. And as much as COVID-19 changed, many of us share feelings about how we plan to follow up on our care going forward, such as by embracing a hybrid model of care and exploring new ways to understand and follow through on doctors’ instructions. That’s where we come in, because using an app like Abridge to record your doctor’s visit is one way to help yourself remember key information from your healthcare provider. Have feedback, or other thoughts on healthcare after a year of pandemic living? Reach out at hello@abridge.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Data from a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Abridge in June-July 2021 of 1,500 Americans (general population) and 500 medical professionals.

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