Survey: Patients likely to wait for care after shelter-in-place lifted

May 11, 2020

The lag in patient volume could take between one and six months.

States lifting stay-at-home orders may not begin to bring patient volumes back for primary care physicians for several months, according to a new survey.

The survey, commissioned by revenue cycle automation company Alpha Health, found that more than 60 percent of the 5,000 respondents said they would wait a month or more after stay-at-home orders were lifted before they would feel comfortable visiting their physicians. More than 40 percent say that the possibility of contracting COVID-19 prevents them from visiting doctors for other health concerns.

“We expect to see patient demand return in waves when health systems return to routine and elective services,” Malinka Walaliyadde, co-founder and CEO of Alpha Health, says in a news release detailing the results of the survey. “Health system executives, including revenue cycle leaders, are facing unprecedented volatility in work volumes, making it very challenging for them to staff their teams appropriately. Many health systems have also experienced crippling declines in revenue as they halted routine and elective procedures to direct the necessary resources to their COVID-19 response. As a result, healthcare providers are under immense financial pressures making their revenue cycle operations more critical than ever before.”

The survey wasn’t all doom and gloom for primary care physicians, though, as it gives a timeline for when patients will be willing to return to doctors offices. More than one-third, 35 percent, of respondents say they will be willing to seek care immediately when the stay-at-home orders have been lifted. A further 37 percent say they would wait at least one month and 26 percent say they will wait at least three months. Only 8 percent of respondents say they will wait six months or more to receive care.

Patient volumes have been down across the country as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic curbs non-emergency procedures and limits unnecessary contact. The issue has left some practices to question their survival during the pandemic.