Blog Post

Insight: COVID-19 Care Delays: Slowly Returning to Normal?

By: Laura Summers

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

One year ago, we were hit with the reality of living in a world with a spreading, unknown disease. We watched as other countries and states struggled with overwhelmed hospitals and health systems. Our local systems made decisions in response that would allow them to maintain capacity for critically ill patients, limit the spread of the virus, and protect resources such as personal protective equipment. This included temporarily restricting access to nonessential medical services and procedures.

Our local health systems made the best decisions they could with the limited information they had at the time. A year later, though, there are many lessons learned and increasing concerns over the pandemic’s longer-lasting direct and indirect effects. One of these concerns is the number of people who delayed―and continue to delay―seeking necessary or routine medical care. Delayed care not only triggers a pent-up demand for treatment but can also result in missed early diagnoses, leading to health conditions that are harder to manage, or even premature death for some patients.

To understand the magnitude of this concern, it is important to know the numbers. While researchers will be studying the effects of COVID-19 for generations to come, the U.S. Census Bureau began surveying the U.S. adult population to better understand the pandemic’s immediate social and economic impacts. The Household Pulse Survey is an experimental survey designed to “quickly and efficiently deploy” d