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Facility Concerns Continue to Keep Patients Away

National  + Weekender  | 

At the height of stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare facilities were essentially closed for non-emergency in-person care. Now that they’ve generally reopened, though, there’s a lingering concern that is keeping would-be patients away.

In a new national survey, patients report they’re continuing to delay or cancel in person appointments for screenings (e.g., mammograms and colonoscopies), specialists and diagnostic testing, out of concern for the policies and conditions of the healthcare environments.

The survey, performed by a coalition of cancer advocacy groups, a healthcare service organization and smart building company View, showed that half of all patients had delayed at least one medical appointment due to lasting impact of COVID-19.

Both healthy respondents and those with chronic conditions reported cancelling or postponing appointments. Healthy patients delayed primary care visits, while chronic patients primarily canceled or postponed diagnostic imaging and lab appointments.

One-third of healthy respondents and 15% of chronic patients surveyed said they had postponed or canceled appointments for mammograms, colonoscopies or other screenings.

Of the 550-plus respondents, 77% expressed concerns about contracting or transmitting COVID-19 at the care site as one of their primary reasons for delaying care. While half worry about the adherence to safety guidelines (e.g., wearing masks) by staff and other patients, the other half expressed fears about the physical environment with overwhelming concern about the safety of waiting rooms.

“We are very worried about the long-term consequences of COVID and delayed appointments,” said Andrea Goodman, VP of patient & family support at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the largest nonprofit colorectal cancer organization and one of the survey’s five sponsors.

“When routine colonoscopies and visits are postponed, there is a tremendous risk of missing that window for early detection and successful treatment,” Goodman continued. “It is critical that we address fears with safe protocols in place to give patients the peace of mind they need to schedule and keep their medical appointments.”

The survey found that both operational strategies (enforced mask-wearing, monitored social distancing, temperature scanning, contact tracing, etc.) and environmental strategies (touchless technologies, disinfection protocols and real-time display of environmental conditions) will be necessary to ease patients’ worries about in-person visits. In fact, restoring patient confidence in the hospital or medical center is critical to having patients return to regular care six months earlier than they might if these fears aren’t addressed, according to the coalition.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).