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How patients feel about returning to care

Hi, my name is Danny Fell and I'm a senior strategist with Optum's new product development team. Recently, cities and States across the country have been relaxing stay-at-home orders in an effort to open up businesses and retail outlets and to allow the public to resume more activities outside the home. Likewise, hospitals have been resuming many elective procedures and surgeries that have been on hold or postponed for several months. But a key question remains for healthcare leaders: are patients ready to return to health care facilities today? The prevailing assumption has been that there's a lot of pent up-demand for health care and hospitals need to prepare for a rush of patients, but the data tells a different story. In our Optum consumer pulse survey, we see a significant number of consumers who are hesitant to return to medical care today. We think this will continue for some period of time and we think it has big implications for health systems that need to quickly resume services and establish financial stability.

Our consumer pulse survey engaged 700 consumers nationwide and asked them directly if they plan to seek care at a hospital or health care facility if they needed to today. This first wave was conducted the week of May 4th and we will be repeating the survey every two weeks for the next several months to provide as close to real-time tracking of consumer opinions about health care as we can. I'll walk you through our initial findings and provide some key takeaways in just a moment. At the end of the presentation I'll tell you how you can request the full study results as well as information about a COVID concern index we have created that identifies which consumers in your market are ready to engage with health care providers and which ones may not be. This can be a powerful tool for focusing your marketing and communications programs in your care coordination activities.

So here's what we found in wave one. A majority of consumers are unlikely to show up for a previously scheduled medical procedure if it were held in a hospital today. Two in three consumers are likely to reschedule or postpone a procedure in a hospital that was scheduled for today. Women are slightly more likely than men to postpone procedures and women 65 plus are almost three times more likely than men of the same age to say they would definitely postpone a procedure. In fact, half of consumers are unlikely to show up for an elective procedure in a hospital that was scheduled for today, and almost half are unlikely to use an outpatient facility for an elective procedure.

We found a significant number of consumers would avoid emergency care today even if it were for life threatening symptoms. In fact, almost one in five consumers are likely to avoid the emergency department despite showing signs of a heart attack or an appendicitis and another 40% are likely to avoid the emergency department for a minor injury.

And among those who are unemployed, almost one in three would avoid the emergency department even for life threatening symptoms. Even fewer consumers would use an urgent care center or a freestanding medical center for a minor illness or an injury today. And finally, consumers, while they're more likely to visit their physician's office today would prefer to do virtually. We found that almost 60% of consumers are likely to keep a previously scheduled doctor's appointment, but the vast majority of them would prefer to use telehealth or virtual care offering. And among women it's the highest with 73% of women in our survey versus 59% of men saying they would prefer to use telehealth.

If you'd like the complete set of findings from wave one, you'd like us to notify you about the next wave coming out the week of May 25th, or you'd like to learn more information about the COVID concern index, which incorporates individual demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data with Optum's powerful predictive models to identify exactly which consumers in your market are ready to engage, reach out to us. We'd be happy to conduct a free analysis of consumers and opportunities in your marketplace and speak with you more about the research we're doing.

You can contact your Optum representative or email Brian Michels at the email address below to contact us and get more information. Thanks for your time today. I look forward to sharing more results from our next wave survey coming out the week of May 25th.


As states begin to re-open, many hospitals are wondering how patients will feel about returning to their facilities for non-COVID related care. In this video, Danny Fell reviews findings from the first wave of the Optum Consumer Pulse Survey.

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