- A coalition of providers, payers and other healthcare organizations on Tuesday launched an ad campaign to encourage patients not to put off important care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The announcement encourages people to continue social distancing but not "medical distancing," such as putting off routine care or avoiding checking on concerning symptoms.
- The campaign will be on TV, in print and across social media. The 11 organizations behind it include Providence, Humana, Baylor Scott & White, LabCorp and Walgreens.
While some hospitals in hotspots in Texas, Florida, California and Arizona have had to once again put off non-emergency procedures, providers in other areas of the country are trying to get back to regular patient volumes as the number of positive cases eases.
Surveys show, however, that people are wary of returning to the doctor's office, either because they worry about exposure to the new coronavirus or have lost coverage to help pay for care.
The new ad campaign seeks to ease these concerns. No dollar figure was attached to the plan, which advertising agency MullenLowe U.S. took on pro bono. It follows an ad the American Hospital Association launched in May to ensure the public facilities are still available for non-COVID-19 care.
Since the pandemic's onset in the United States, health officials have been concerned about the short- and long-term consequences of routine and preventive care being delayed or put off entirely. Chronic diseases that are caught early can be managed more easily and less expensively.
Also, research shows even some crucial services aren't being sought even for issues such as strokes and heart attacks. In April, emergency room visits nationwide dropped more than 40%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health experts are also beginning to fear vaccinations may be avoided, which could cause trouble during the upcoming flu season.
For providers the reduction in patient volumes has meant major revenue losses. Patients have returned in some areas, but resumption of normal activity is now slowing as hospitals in large states like Texas and Florida again reach capacity with a COVID-19 surge.
At the end of June, hospital traffic in Arizona, New York and Texas was down week over week, according to an analysis from Jefferies.
Primary care has particularly suffered. Visits to medical offices were down nearly 60% in March and April, meaning losses to those practices could top $15 billion this year, according to a recent Health Affairs study.
The ad campaign stresses that providers have guidelines in place to keep patients safe, such as isolation of those suspected of having COVID-19 and increased virtual options.