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Public sentiment on healthcare deteriorating during COVID-19 pandemic

Overall, 60% rated the U.S. healthcare system as "poor" or "fair," compared to the 11% that rated it as "excellent."

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As COVID-19 continues to make life difficult across the country, a new healthinsurance.com national survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by Scott Rasmussen found that public sentiment surrounding the nation's healthcare system is deteriorating. 

Whether it's concerns about the cost of care or insurance coverage, the results suggest many Americans are anxious about the state of healthcare.

Overall, 60% of respondents rated the U.S. healthcare system as "poor" or "fair," compared to the 11% that rated it as "excellent." 

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When asked about the fix, 69% say the key to improving the U.S. healthcare system is giving more control to patients and doctors. In fact, when it came to healthcare reform, more than 50% of respondents said it was a "very important" issue in the upcoming presidential election.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

COVID-19 hasn't improved voters' thoughts about the U.S. healthcare system. One-third of respondents said their opinion of the U.S. healthcare system changed for the worse in the face of COVID-19. Only 14% said their opinion changed for the better. Similarly, one-third of respondents said they're afraid of contracting the virus because of healthcare costs.

Keeping one's current healthcare plan is a priority: Some 64% rate their own personal health insurance coverage as "excellent" or "good," while 38% of employed respondents said they were reluctant to switch jobs and sacrifice their current health insurance. One in four say they or close family or friends have lost their insurance during the pandemic.

While overall sentiment surrounding the U.S. healthcare system may be down, the survey results suggest innovations –including increased access to telehealth, and a shift to primarily working from home – might have a positive impact on health and wellness.

When asked to weigh in on changes caused by social distancing requirements, 49% of employed respondents said that working from home was actually better for their overall health and wellness. In fact, 62% said the ability to work for home is now an important factor when considering or accepting a new job.

How patients use healthcare has shifted as well. The survey reveals a 115% increase in telehealth usage since the start of the pandemic. Virtual visits offer advantages over in-person doctor visits, such as avoiding crowded waiting rooms, convenience, last-minute scheduling and no waiting times, which were important features for a majority of those surveyed.

THE LARGER TREND

Due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has evolved from an alternative means of care to one of the primary ways in which many patients seek treatment. That's reflected in the numbers: In 2020, virtual care is expected to account for more than 20% of all medical visits in the U.S., which in turn is projected to drive $29 billion in total healthcare services.

Those numbers were revealed this week in Doximity's 2020 State of Telemedicine Report, which also found that up to $106 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could be virtualized by 2023. This highlights the high rates of adoption among both patients and physicians, and the impetus felt among providers to offer safe, secure and easy-to-use virtual services as demand for telehealth continues to grow.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com