COVID-19 infection fears led to delay in treating non-COVID ailments, finds NATHEALTH Survey

57% of patients had cancelled/postponed their treatment plans as they were anxious to access healthcare facilities amidst the pandemic. Of patients who cancelled/postponed their treatment, 62% patients believed that their health condition has been negatively impacted

New Delhi: NATHEALTH, an apex body representing the ecosystem of private healthcare sector has released a report on the “Impact of COVID-19 on patient behaviour towards accessing healthcare facilities.” The pandemic has led to major changes in patients’ treatment plans due to restrictions in accessing healthcare facilities. The report highlights some significant findings following a survey to understand patient readiness to return to their routine hospital visits and treatments. This survey was conducted in Jan-Feb 2021 with a sample size of 2134 patients with different treatment needs across metros, tier 1 and tier 2 geographical settings in India. The report also puts emphasis on how patient confidence can be restored.
The survey classified patients under three categories:
1) Patients with planned elective surgeries
2) Patients requiring support from the hospital inpatient department (IPD)
3) Patients requiring frequent doctor visits in the hospital OPDs
Key findings of the report are as follows:
  • On an overall level, 57%, that is more than half of the surveyed patients, cancelled/postponed/rescheduled their treatment plan during the period of March-December 2020
  • 100% of the elective surgery patients cancelled/postponed/rescheduled their surgeries
  • 34% of OPD patients cancelled or rescheduled their OPD visits to the hospitals
  • Of the patients who cancelled/postponed their treatment, 62% patients believed that their health condition has been negatively impacted
  • Of the patients who cancelled/postponed their treatment, 82% patients wished to reschedule/return to their treatment plan by June 2021
  • Of the patients who cancelled/postponed their treatment, 95% of the patients wished to continue their treatment with the same hospital
  • 50% patients engaged in tele-consultations with their healthcare providers during the complete lockdown phase
  • Of the patients who cancelled/postponed their treatment, only 2% patients opted for Home Healthcare services and 98% patients medically managed their condition at home with doctor’s advice
Commenting on the findings, Dr Harsh Mahajan, President, NATHEALTH and Founder & Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging, said, “In the last few weeks, continued focus on COVID tests and treatments have reduced attention on non-communicable diseases, non-COVID surgeries, treatments and consultations by private healthcare providers. It is vital for healthcare delivery centers to communicate to patients to not delay their treatment and avail non-COVID services related to tests, screenings and consultations. A delay will only lead to further health complications in the midst of the ongoing pandemic by resulting in another catastrophe. Patients must be made aware that they can opt for e-consults and professional at home healthcare services. According to the survey, only 2% patients have opted for it. Furthermore, doctor’s advice must be sought regularly through teleconsultations.”
The survey also provided a few key implications that the patients changing behaviour can have. The report suggests that one should adopt data intelligence algorithm processes to prioritize patient profiles. Furthermore, according to the report, zero contact consultations must be made common and should differentiate patients for tele-consult services versus patients who require in-person appointments.