No one can discount the devastation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2022, Our World in Data reports over six million dead from the virus. Globally, people have suffered economically, physically, and mentally.
In fact, in a recent study with Kantar Profiles global physician panel, we found 71% of primary care physicians say the pandemic has caused a delay in office visits that has ultimately led to delays in diagnosis and treatment. In addition, primary care physicians (PCPs) say they are seeing an increase in long-term symptoms from their patients.
Within this research, we also set out to explore whether some good has come from this life-changing event. We asked the open-ended question, “what positives, if any, do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the healthcare system?” Here’s some of what physicians had to say.
A boom in remote consulting
“Speeding up digital innovation, improved use of remote consulting.” – Kantar Profiles physician panel member
Remote consulting has been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic. An October 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated a 154% increase in telehealth visits in the last week of March 2020.
This aligns with the most common positive mentioned by PCPs: the pandemic has brought about an improvement in technology. Many mentioned remote consulting as the most significant benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the UK, 55% of the surveyed PCPs mentioned this and 39% of U.S. physicians.
Because of telehealth's quick adoption and implementation in the U.S., the market is expected to rise seven-fold by 2025, corresponding to a five-year compound annual growth rate of 38.2%. This also comes with new regulations regarding payment for remote visits.
The bump-up in remote consultations and telehealth services became critical during the pandemic. As one physician stated:
“In primary care, it has caused a shift to remote consulting, which was much needed to help keep up with demand. The healthcare system as a whole has been decimated by COVID. Waiting times are huge.” – Kantar Profiles physician panel member
People care about their health
“I have noticed a lot of patients starting to prioritize and take responsibility for their health. Losing weight, drinking less and exercising more, to try to become healthier.” -- Kantar Profiles physician panel member
Many physicians felt there was a surge in the level of self-care among patients, as well. Increased self-awareness with patients in the UK and the US is rising in light of the COVID-19 restrictions.
At the pandemic's start, physicians globally were concerned about increasing rates of weight gain, chronic fatigue, and shortness of breath. However, 7% of UK PCPs and 10% of US PCPs mentioned that patients appear to be better at managing non-urgent illnesses and more aware of their overall health needs.
Also on the list of benefits was increased use of technology. Verbatims covered both remote consultations and better self-care. People are buying medical devices for home use, such as blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and health monitoring apps.
Other benefits coming out of the COVID pandemic
Some of the other benefits physicians focused on were faster systems (8%) and improved triaging (7%) in the UK, and exposure of the negatives in the healthcare system (7%) in the U.S.
Beyond the silver linings
While the majority of physicians were able to find some positive outcomes from the global pandemic, others saw no silver linings. In the U.S., 18% said they saw no benefits, and 9% in the UK.
About this study
This research was conducted online using 1,253 Primary Care Physician respondents from the Kantar Profiles Healthcare Panel, part of the Kantar Profiles Audience Network, between February 15-21, 2022. Markets included: US (286), UK (274), Germany (86), Spain (266), Italy (216) and France (125).
Find more about this study, learn about our Healthcare data collection services or our proprietary Physician Panel, contact us.