In April, we commissioned a survey to better understand the concerns consumers were facing following the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, conducted by Engine Insights and included a U.S. representative sample of more than 1,000 respondentsfound consumer fears were prevalent. Shared by HealthLeaders and Insurance News Net, the results showed: 

  • 75% of respondents were concerned about losing their job due to the pandemic and more than half were concerned about losing their health insurance as a result of job loss
     
  • 58% said they will consider delaying non-emergency, but medically necessary surgery this year due to cost and 56% would delay a diagnostic procedure because of the expense
     
  • Nearly three-fifths of respondents said that out-of-pocket medical expenses would not make their top five high priority household expenses 

Four months later, we continue to see a similar picture with some concerns turning into reality. The New York Times discovered that due to rising unemployment, U.S. adults are putting off care because of costs rather than fear of contracting the novel virus. This comes at a time when credit standards are tightening. According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly a third of banks have increased their minimum credit score requirements for credit cards. This is a 14 percent increase from January. 

Between February and May, 5.4 million workers lost their employer-sponsored health insurance, according to the non-partisan consumer advocacy group Families USAWhile the U.S. economy saw 1.8 million jobs added in July, the number is below the 4.8 million jobs added back in June signaling a slow pace to economic recovery shares the Associated PressFurthermore, the Associated Press reports consumer spending confidence is low with the index recording at 92.6 compared to 132.6 in February. 

As hospitals look to regain their financial losses from suspending elective services earlier this yearthey will need to address these consumer concerns in order to protect their financial health while ensuring patients receive necessary medical care. Health systems can begin by proactively engaging with the patient prior to their scheduled service. Communicate the safety protocols the facility has taken as well as speak to new financial policies that can help the patient. By adopting these small practices, patients will feel more comfortable seeking necessary care. 

For more information on how to establish a robust patient financial communications strategy, check out AccessOne CEO Mark Spinner’s thought-piece published by Health IT Answers: Why Non-Emergency Surgery Volumes Could Depend on Early Financial Engagement.