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How the Pandemic Delayed Care for Older Americans

Some patients have rescheduled care, while others continue to wait, poll finds

March 25, 2022

COVID-19 delayed primary care, dental visits, and procedures for about 30 percent of Americans over 50, and some of those patients have not rescheduled care, according to a recent National Poll on Healthy Aging

The poll evaluates the ways the pandemic has delayed care and illustrates the importance of staying up to date on scheduled procedures and screenings, primary care, and dental visits.

“Whether they chose to postpone or their provider did, these patients missed opportunities for preventive care and for early detection and effective management of chronic conditions, not to mention operations and procedures to address a pressing health need,” said Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH, MS, associate director of the poll and a health care researcher and associate professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine.

Among the highlights in the national poll of older adults:

  • Tests and procedures:  Of those who had a test, procedure, or operation delayed due to COVID-19 during 2021, most had returned for their care (34%) or had rescheduled for a later date (38%)
  • Differences across vaccination status:  44 percent of unvaccinated older adults whose test, procedure, or operation was disrupted had rescheduled care; 81 percent of vaccinated and boosted older adults had rescheduled this care
  • Primary care:  15 percent of older adults said they had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled a visit to their primary care provider due to COVID-19. Most older adults had rescheduled or received care after their COVID-19 delay, but 14 percent haven’t rescheduled and 8 percent weren’t planning to
  • Dental care:  18 percent of older adults said they had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled a dental appointment due to COVID-19. About 47 percent of those patients had rescheduled their appointments, and 12 percent had an upcoming appointment

At the outset of the pandemic, HAP highlighted the ways Pennsylvania hospitals had transformed operations to ensure safe care and emphasized the importance of staying up to date on their routine testing, exams, and other preventive health measures. HAP reminds patients who need to reschedule care due to the pandemic to contact their health care provider to get started.

Information about the importance of rescheduling delayed care and a summary of the poll’s findings are available online.




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