COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

Perspective from Margot Savoy, MD, MPH
Perspective from Alexander Kowalski, DO
Source: Press Release

Disclosures: Rhee is employed by Aetna, a CVS Health company.
July 16, 2021
3 min read
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Survey: Amid pandemic, patients show more interest in their health

Perspective from Margot Savoy, MD, MPH
Perspective from Alexander Kowalski, DO
Source: Press Release

Disclosures: Rhee is employed by Aetna, a CVS Health company.
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A CVS Health survey revealed that patients are more eager to receive personalized health care and reach their health goals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers administered the poll to 1,000 adult patients and 400 physicians in March to better understand health care trends over the past 12 months.

Doctor and a patient having a conversation
A new survey suggests that patients are paying more attention to their health amid the pandemic.
Source: Adobe Stock

According to CVS Health, 77% of patients said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a greater focus on their own health, and 50% said stay-at-home orders helped them achieve their health goals.

The survey also revealed trends in health care utilization, including a slight shift away from primary care. Routine care from primary care providers dropped from 62% in 2020 to 56% in 2021, with more patients preferring to use online resources (19% vs. 12%), community health centers (19% vs. 15%) and local pharmacies (17% vs. 11%) in 2021 compared with 2020. In the past 12 months, 57% of patients said they used virtual care for a health care visit.

CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch said in a press release that the past 18 months have caused a “dramatic shift in consumer health care preferences and needs.”

“These shifts toward personalized care have the potential to impact our health care system well past the pandemic, with many people taking a more engaged approach to their own health,” she said. “Going forward, we have an opportunity to take what we’ve learned and continue to foster an integrated health model that is centered around the needs of the individual.”

Opportunities for physicians

Despite a greater focus on health during the pandemic, many patients reported struggling with substance use and mental health. Twenty-one percent of adult patients said they used more nicotine, 10% drank more alcohol and 10% used more opioids than they had in previous years. In addition, 35% of adults aged 18 to 34 years reported depression in the past 12 months, and 28% reported mental illness, making this age group the highest to report these conditions, according to the press release. Among those aged 18 to 34 years, 74% did not seek mental health services to treat their condition(s), and 28% cited cost as the reason.

Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, senior vice president at CVS Health and chief medical officer of Aetna, told Healio Primary Care that the survey findings highlight opportunities for physicians to “leverage the close relationship” with patients.

Kyu Rhee

According to Rhee, 71% of health care providers who responded to the survey said that all or most of their patients proactively discuss or ask about their medications and related costs, adherence and adverse events. However, only 33% of patients discuss their socioeconomic status. In addition, 80% of health care providers said they “always or often” talk about the significance of medication adherence with their patients but only 44% discuss health care costs.

Among adult patients:

  • 61% said their health care provider did not ask them about affordability of health care and/or discuss mechanisms that can help with health care costs;
  • 25% said they had “low/no familiarity” with the out-of-pocket costs they pay for medical care; and
  • 23% said they do not know how to look at their health plan to understand out-of-pocket costs.

“Extending virtual care offerings, prescribing generics or ensuring prescribing aligns with a patient’s health plan formulary and ensuring that orders for services like radiology and other testing include lower cost sites of care that are covered by a patient’s insurance are just a few of the ways that providers can help increase accessibility and affordability,” Rhee said.

Gender differences in health care trends

The survey also highlighted differences in how women and men use health care and their wellbeing during the pandemic. According to the data: 

  • 27% of women typically used nurse practitioners to get health information, compared with 21% of men;
  • 73% of women saw annual checkups as a reason to communicate with their PCPs, compared with 58% of men;
  • 86% of women wanted PCPs to be aware of their alcohol use, compared with 79% of men;
  • 68% of women said they were “happy” with their social connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 80% of men; and
  • 70% of men said the COVID-19 pandemic had a “high/moderate impact” on stress related to caring for children who live at home, compared with 59% of women.

The poll also showed that 25% of men said they would go to an ED or urgent care clinic for “routine care for a minor illness,” compared with 18% of women, Rhee said.

This particular data point provides primary care physicians “with a clear opportunity to engage their male patients more proactively in their own health care,” Rhee said.

“Physicians also can help their patients more easily access care via virtual health offerings; learn how to better afford their medications, tests and other health care; and access community resources for mental health and other critical health care needs,” he said.

References:

CVS Health. New CVS Health Study finds people are taking greater control of their health as a result of the pandemic. https://cvshealth.com/news-and-insights/press-releases/new-cvs-health-study-finds-people-are-taking-greater-control-of. Accessed July 15, 2021.

CVS Health. The 2021 Health Care Insights Study (Executive Summary). https://cvshealth.com/sites/default/files/cvs-health-health-care-insights-study-2021-report-executive-summary.pdf. Accessed July 15, 2021.