Specialty Care and COVID-19: Disruptions and How Clinics Are Responding

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Before COVID-19 caused a public health crisis in the U.S., patients often had to wait weeks or months for an appointment with a specialist. Then came COVID-19, which set forth public health mandates, stay at home orders, temporary clinic closures, appointment cancellations, and mass disruptions to patient care. So how has the demand for specialty care been impacted? How have patients’ experiences changed? And, what are specialty care clinics doing to navigate new challenges brought on by COVID-19? Here are some insights shared by specialists and patients via a pair of online surveys conducted by Luma Health.  

The Current State of Specialty Care

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt healthcare in the U.S., specialists are experiencing many of the same struggles as other healthcare providers across the country. These include: 

Decreased Patient Volume – In many areas, elective procedures have had to be halted temporarily. Also, some patients have chosen to postpone non-essential care due to concerns about visiting healthcare facilities and being exposed to COVID-19. According to healthcare professionals, 58% of specialty clinics have experienced a decrease in patient volume as a result of COVID-19. And, of those healthcare professionals with knowledge of operating capacity, only 38% of healthcare professionals at specialty clinics say their clinic is operating at 80% of its capacity or above.

Increased Patient No Shows – More than 1 in 3 healthcare professionals (35%) have seen an increase in patient no shows at their specialty clinic since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  

Temporary Closures – More than a quarter of healthcare professionals (27%) at specialty clinics say COVID-19 caused their clinic to close temporarily.  

Staffing Shortages – 42% of healthcare professionals at specialty clinics report seeing staffing shortages at their clinic due to COVID-19. 

Layoffs and Furloughs – More than half (58%) of specialty clinics have faced layoffs or furloughs, according to the healthcare professionals who work at these specialty clinics.

More than one in three patients’ health has been impacted because they missed healthcare appointments that were cancelled by them or their doctors.

Being a Patient Has Become Harder

Specialists are concerned about the impact that clinic closures and care disruptions are having on patients. In fact, 27% of healthcare professionals at specialty clinics explain that they’ve seen patients struggle to access the care they need as a result of COVID-19. Also, 23% of healthcare professionals at specialty clinics report seeing declines in patients’ health due to COVID-19. 

Patients, themselves, are also worried about the negative effects of the pandemic and care disruptions. Here is a look at what patients say they are experiencing: 

  • 38% of patients say their health has been impacted because they are nervous about going to the doctor and potentially being exposed to COVID-19.
  • 42% of patients have stated that they plan to delay care until they have a serious health concern.
  • 35% of patients say their health has been impacted by COVID-19 because they missed healthcare appointments.
  • 14% of patients say COVID-19 has impacted their health because they’ve had to defer surgeries or procedures. 
  • More than 1 in 10 patients with a common chronic health condition (11%) say their condition has worsened during the pandemic.

What Specialists Are Doing to Adapt and Support Patients

Specialists have had to adopt innovative new approaches to care as they work to meet patients’ needs and keep their businesses open during the pandemic. Here is a look at what specialty providers say they are doing to adapt: 

Adjusting Appointment Scheduling – More than half (54%) of specialty clinics have been rescheduling in-person appointments as telehealth appointments when possible to help patients feel safer seeking care. Also, 23% of specialty clinics have offered special in-person appointment times for older or high-risk patients during the pandemic. 

Adding Precautions to Keep Patients and Staff Safe – According to healthcare providers, nearly two-thirds of specialty clinics (62%) have sent screening surveys to patients prior to in-person appointments. Also, 85% of specialists are checking patients’ temperature at the door when they arrive for an appointment. Finally, 92% of healthcare professionals at specialty clinics report that their clinic has enhanced sanitation processes. 

Implementing New Zero Contact Solutions – Minimizing contact between patients and staff has become a main priority. Half (50%) of healthcare professionals report that their specialty clinic implemented zero contact check-in during the pandemic. And 38% implemented zero contact waiting rooms.

Click here to watch and learn how Luma Health makes zero contact check-in a breeze for clinics and their patients.

These and other changes have required frequent communication with patients. For this reason, many healthcare professionals at specialty clinics report that they are working to engage patients more with outreach communications. In fact, 80% of specialists agree that communicating with patients between visits should be part of the “new normal” following COVID-19. 

Across all areas of healthcare, 91% of providers fully expect to see continued care disruptions as a result of COVID-19. Because future disruptions are seemingly inevitable, now is the time to put plans and solutions in place to help your team better engage patients and manage their care. Luma Health is here to help. Learn more.

The State of Healthcare

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