Monday, November 21, 2011

Patients Avoiding Medical Care Due To Costs

One of the stats we are tracking constantly as we publish Kalorama Information forecasts is doctor visits. Trends in doctor visits is an indicator of how the healthcare system is functioning, but especially diagnostics where an increase or decrease in doctor visits will be associated with test volumes.  Doctor visits have been in a downward trend since the beginning of the recession, reaching a point where some suggest that when patients do visit, they are sicker.  According to Amednews,  US patients are increasingly reducing doctor visits due to cost, and this could be leading to sicker patients. 

In the latest Commonwealth Fund study, when broken down by insurance status, 76% of the uninsured had problems with access because of cost.  Patients in industrialized countries have health care bills, but U.S. patients with complex medical needs were more likely to have trouble paying them. "Sicker adults" were defined as those who rated their health as fair or poor; received care for a serious chronic illness, injury or disability within the past year; underwent surgery within the past two years; or had been hospitalized within the past two years.
 Other sources suggest that the decline may be permanent.

"I don't think we'll see the same utilization patterns again," said Michael Thompson, a New York-based principal for PwC's Global Human Resources Division, which surveys clients on health issues. "Health care is not free anymore. That has an impact on how people are engaging the system."
We've looked at these issues in our report on 'Out of Pocket Healthcare.'