Two-Thirds of C-Suite Execs Say Delayed Care Access Worsened Patient Health

By Sara Heath

November 16, 2022 – The byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic remain morbid, with 12 percent of healthcare C-suite executives saying they think the delayed care access common during the worst of the outbreak will result in higher mortality rates, according to new research from Sage Growth Partners.

Healthcare organizations will need to combat this prediction by continuing their work to close care gaps and improve patient re-engagement and access to preventive screenings.

Nearly two-thirds of those executives said they think patient health is worse off than before the pandemic, with staffing shortages and lapses in health equity being part of the problem.

“Our new report uncovers alarming data about the state of overall health in America, with 67% of our survey respondents indicating that they believe the health of Americans is worse now than it was before the pandemic,” Dan D’Orazio, Sage Growth Partners CEO, said in a press release.

“Key factors contributing to this health decline are the high rate of cancelled and delayed care appointments as well as the tremendous impact that clinical staffing shortages and a lack of health equity are having across the industry. To address challenges such as these, it will take the full cooperation of the entire healthcare ecosystem to solve.”

The survey of 100 executive leaders at US hospitals and health systems showed that delayed care and poor patient access to care during the pandemic have come to haunt the nation’s medical industry. Around two-thirds (67 percent) of executive respondents said they think patient health and well-being are worse than before the pandemic, and it’s no surprise considering the hit primary and preventive care has taken in the past two years.

Sage Growth Partners researchers noted that between March and July of 2020, there was a 41 percent drop in access to primary care and preventive screening. Although most lapses in patient care access are concentrated during this time, the industry is still facing some aftereffects.

Respondents said they think around half of patients (57 percent) are delaying wellness visits, primary care visits (46 percent), cancer screenings (45 percent), and elective surgeries (41 percent).

That delayed care won’t come without consequence, respondents predicted. One in five (22 percent) of respondents said they think delayed care will result in higher disease acuity, while 17 percent said patients and providers will have to grapple with delayed diagnoses and advanced disease progression.

Delayed care access may also result in more patients battling chronic illness (14 percent), higher emergency department or hospital admissions (14 percent), higher mortality rates (12 percent), poor patient outcomes (11 percent), and worsened population health (9 percent).

Only 10 percent of respondents said delayed patient care access will have no consequences.

Healthcare organizations are facing these challenges with strong patient re-engagement efforts, the report showed. To be clear, the imperative for patient re-engagement and filling care gaps was evident even back in July 2020, when healthcare organizations reopened for primary, preventive, and elective care.

The Sage Growth Partners report revealed that healthcare organizations are doubling down on those strategies to stave off the potential side effects of delayed patient care access. Particularly, around three-quarters of respondents said their organization is leaning on telephone and email patient outreach to encourage people to resume healthcare access and fill care gaps. Sixty-four percent are using social media outreach to do the same.

Meanwhile, half said they are expanding care access modalities via telehealth visits and digital tools. Thirty-eight percent said they are investing in patient self-scheduling solutions, for example.

Healthcare organization leadership also acknowledged the role that staffing will play in expanding patient access to care, with 71 percent saying staff recruitment and retention are their top priority.

Read full article in Patient Engagement HIT