Online Survey Shows More Than 60 Percent of Americans Will Wait Between One Month To More Than Six Months After Shelter-In-Place Orders Lifted To Seek Routine Healthcare

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Alpha Health, the first Unified Automation company for revenue cycle management in healthcare, released the results of a national online survey designed to assess how quickly Americans will be comfortable re-engaging with healthcare services for routine in-person care as shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

The survey results exemplify that consumer sentiment towards how and when to re-engage with healthcare providers can sometimes be conflicting, adding to the challenging market conditions health systems have to navigate as they prepare to phase back in routine care and elective procedures. The ability to forecast utilization of services offered is critical for right sizing how these organizations bring back furloughed staff and ramp up operations.

“We expect to see patient demand return in waves when health systems return to routine and elective services,” said Malinka Walaliyadde, co-founder and CEO of Alpha Health. “Health system executives, including revenue cycle leaders, are facing unprecedented volatility in work volumes, making it very challenging for them to staff their teams appropriately. Many health systems have also experienced crippling declines in revenue as they halted routine and elective procedures to direct the necessary resources to their COVID-19 response. As a result, healthcare providers are under immense financial pressures making their revenue cycle operations more critical than ever before.”

The survey was commissioned by Alpha Health and conducted by SurveyMonkey via an online poll. The survey was conducted April 17-23, 2020 among 5,379 adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate rate for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Survey respondents were split in regards to their current comfort in seeking care for health issues not related to COVID-19, with 44 percent reporting that concerns about exposure to COVID-19 at a doctor’s office is preventing them from seeking care while just over half (54 percent) indicated that such concerns are not preventing them from seeking care for health issues not related to COVID-19.

Survey respondents were asked, “Are concerns about exposure to COVID-19 while at a doctor’s appointment preventing you from seeking care for health issues not related to COVID-19?”

Yes

44%

No

54%

No answer

2%

More than one third (35 percent) of Americans report being willing to seek routine care immediately after shelter-in-place orders are lifted, while more than a third (37 percent) plan to wait at least one month longer and more than a quarter of respondents (26 percent) will wait 3 months or more.

Survey respondents were asked, “How long after shelter-in-place orders have been lifted would you feel comfortable going to the doctor for routine care and appointments?

Immediately

35%

I’ll wait an additional month

37%

I’ll wait an additional 3 months

18%

I’ll wait an additional 6 months or more

8%

No answer

2%

“Leaning into automation and other technologies may seem counterintuitive at the moment,” said Varun Ganapathi, co-founder and chief technology officer of Alpha Health. “However, these tools are crucial to an organization’s ability to ensure business continuity and staffing flexibility during large swings in work volumes. Health systems will inevitably find that they are overstaffed and then understaffed during different periods of time. Revenue cycle managers are facing the dual challenges of minimizing stress on their teams and mitigating the need to hire and fire as their organizations navigate uncertainty and volatility in the market.”

Health systems will be looking to revenue cycle leaders to ensure their financial viability in both the near and long term. With more than 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in recent weeks, health systems are experiencing or may soon experience significant and unfavorable changes to their payer makeup as their Medicaid patient pools are likely to expand and a greater percentage of patients may be uninsured entirely. Revenue cycle teams are having to adapt their operations in real-time while also advising their leadership on the longer-term cost restructuring that will be required as a result of these market dynamics.

As the survey data implies, Americans are going to be thoughtful about returning to preventative and elective care. Automation applied throughout revenue cycle operations can help health systems navigate the inevitable fluctuations in volumes and fiscal exposure.

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