What impact has delayed care, due to the pandemic, had on employees and how can employers mitigate this?
Let's look at a recent survey of 5,000 people conducted by Integrated Benefits Institute. Here are some of their findings:
- Less than 75% of employees are up to date on preventive screenings and immunizations.
- 58% of employees delayed necessary medical care due to cost or insurance barriers
- 42% reported delays because there wasn’t an appointment available
- 35% delayed or avoided care due to fear of getting or spreading COVID-19.
Reasons for not being up to date on preventive screenings included the belief that it wasn’t necessary because “I’m young and healthy” (17%). Others said it was due to costs/can’t afford (14%).
As for not being up to date on immunizations, the reasons listed were because they don’t like shots/don’t want them/don’t trust them (37%), and that they aren’t necessary because “I have a strong immune system” (15%).
Regardless of sociodemographics, individuals with more chronic conditions were more likely to delay care. Sixty-nine percent of individuals with 3 or more chronic conditions delayed care due cost/insurance barriers, compared to 51% with no chronic conditions. However, those with chronic conditions are also more likely to be up to date on preventive care.
Additional findings include:
- Individuals with co-morbid anxiety and depression are least likely to be up to date on preventive screenings or adult immunizations.
- Rural areas have lower rates of preventive care: 55% of individuals in rural areas are up to date on preventive screenings, compared to 61% in urban areas. Sixty percent of individuals in rural areas are up to date on adult immunizations, compared to 69% in urban areas.
- Individuals with higher income and higher education are more likely to be up to date on preventive screenings and immunizations.
- Having children in the household was associated with higher rates of preventive screenings and adult immunizations.
- Older respondents were less likely to delay or avoid medical care for any reason.
As for how employers can address some of these issues, the survey included some advice.
Ask why employees are delaying care: Any delays in treatment may exacerbate symptoms and make treatment more difficult, both of which increase the cost of treatment. This makes tracking rates of delayed care important for employers, so they can both encourage employees to get the treatment they need, as well as budget for healthcare costs going forward.
Acknowledge the impact of mental health: Mental health conditions often occur with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma, and can impact patients’ ability to adhere to treatment recommendations for other physical health conditions.
Improve access to care where barriers exist: A key barrier to timely healthcare is cost, especially now with inflation impacting the price of everything from groceries to transportation, and high-deductible health plans can cause major challenges for affordability. To address accessibility challenges, employers are utilizing mobile clinics to meet employees wherever they are.
Create a culture that encourages seeking care: Employers can utilize specific employees as champions for benefit programs and encourage healthful behaviors. Managers can be trained to encourage conversations around healthcare and well-being. Having managers that are well-equipped to deal with staff health concerns is key to moving the company culture in the right direction.