EHE Health Warns That Gap in Preventive Care During
COVID-19 Is the Next Great Health Crisis
New York, NY | September 30, 2020
EHE Health, a leading national preventive and primary healthcare organization, today warned that the sharp decline in preventive care visits and health screenings during COVID-19 will lead to a surge in cardiovascular disease, more advanced stages of cancer and other preventable health conditions unless there is a coordinated effort by employers to re-engage American employees in regular health maintenance and prevention activities. The near-term urgency is the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and increased vulnerability of people with two or more of these underlying health conditions.
“There still are a lot of unknowns about COVID-19, but what we know for sure based on evidence is that public health works, and it fell off the rails during this horrific pandemic,” said David Levy, MD, an epidemiologist and CEO of EHE Health. “The data we’re seeing across the healthcare spectrum tells us that the gap in care over the past several months will have a long-term rippling effect on the US economy, our health system and the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.”
A livestream briefing on the utilization of preventive services hosted by EHE Health revealed that preventive health visits dropped by nearly half in the Northeast and on the West Coast during the pandemic shutdown and declined in the U.S. overall by 30 percent. The evidence suggests health checkups are gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels, but the four-to six-month gap in care has yet to be filled. The lack of early detection, treatment and health mitigation during this time could have serious health and cost consequences in the years ahead.
COVID-19 caused Americans to forego preventive care
The data analysis, conducted by the Center for Advanced Analytics at UnitedHealthcare, examined utilization data from March 15-July 16, 2020, generally considered to be the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Among the prevention measures that saw decreases were:
|Decline in Preventive Care during COVID-19|
|Category||Decline in Use|
|Cholesterol screenings/lipid panels||-42%|
|MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations||-51%|
|Cervical cancer screenings||-53%|
|Breast cancer screenings||-56%|
|Colon cancer screenings||-59%|
The data show notable differences in the use of preventive care by geography and demographics. States that shut down the earliest have the greatest gaps in care. For example, in New York, Massachusetts and Minnesota, colon cancer screenings declined by greater than 75 percent compared to 59 percent in the U.S. overall. Other factors, including race and ethnicity, age, gender and income level also contributed to variables in utilization rates. Health checkups by men declined by 30 percent, just slightly more than the 28 percent decline among women. However, the gap in care among men is actually much greater, since men generally seek preventive care at half the rate of women, according to UnitedHealthcare data.
“Preventive care is the most powerful part of our health system, and it’s more important than ever given what we have learned from COVID-19 about co-morbidity risks,” said Dr. Levy. “These utilization trends foreshadow the sequel to COVID-19, but also provide us with a guide to prepare for what comes next. Let this serve as a call to action for employers, insurers and healthcare providers to work together to activate Americans’ re-engagement with the health system and to better understand the unique drivers of and barriers to proactively managing health.”
Employers are now taking an active role in providing their employees with education and resources to encourage preventive care. An analysis of preventive care utilization among EHE Health’s patient populations suggests that this approach can have a positive impact on utilization, and did even during the pandemic. For example, preventive care bookings by EHE Health subscribers were 11.2 percent higher for the period June 1-September 16, 2020 compared to the same period last year.
The findings of the analyses were reviewed with employers at a webinar entitled “The Pandemic After the Pandemic.” This is the latest in a series of webinars about COVID-19 that also feature public health experts such as Columbia University epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Shaman and Dr. Justin Silverman of the College of Information and Science at Penn State University. A replay of the webinar may be accessed here on EHE Health’s website, along with other COVID-19 related webinars.
About EHE Health
EHE Health is a national healthcare provider organization and center of excellence in preventive health and primary care. EHE’s evidenced-based preventive care is offered to mid- and large-sized employers to give their employees and beneficiaries an entry point to organized healthcare, beginning with prevention. EHE Health is the only national healthcare provider dedicated to preventive care, with no health status selection, among large, diverse workforce populations. For over one hundred years it has been dedicated to health, productivity and longevity for patients, and improving the value of the healthcare benefit offered by large employers. For more information, visit us at https://ehe.health/.
The Hubbell Group for EHE Health