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Almost three quarters of patients with chronic illnesses feel more at risk for COVID-19

Epidemiologists have identified those with chronic medical conditions as one of the key groups at risk of poor outcomes from the coronavirus.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As the global pandemic continues and its impact increasingly disrupts daily life in the U.S., a new ongoing survey launched last week reveals specific concerns about the novel coronavirus among people living with chronic illnesses, who feel these conditions make them more susceptible to the virus (73%) and are beginning to turn to each other (58%) and their doctors (36%) for more information.

Epidemiologists have identified people with serious chronic medical conditions as one of the two key demographic groups, along with older adults, at high risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 .

Health Perspectives Group fielded the first of a series of ongoing surveys last week among 1,300 members of its Health Stories Project social-sharing community who are living with or caring for chronic conditions, tracking their awareness of and concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19.

Survey participants span age groups (18-92), genders, races and ethnicities, education levels, locations, and 17 chronic-disease areas. The survey will be re-administered to the same respondents, who have agreed to participate every two days over the next two weeks to track changes in their concerns, disease status and access to information in real time.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

In the first week of significant impact of the pandemic in the U.S., people living with chronic health conditions are alert and concerned about both broad and personal impacts of COVID-19. Among respondents, 33% watch, read or listen to the news daily, 35% several times a day and 20% almost constantly, across a wide range of sources, including TV (75%), news websites (64%), news apps (53%) and social media (75%).

When considering the general impact of the pandemic, 56% of respondents think there will be a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 this year (19% say sometime in the future and 12% are not sure), and 89% of respondents expressed concern that the outbreak will hurt the economy.

As information about and understanding of the virus evolve, and since knowledge about risks for their specific diseases is not yet widely available, patients are seeking information and support from each other: 44% of respondents have talked to other people with their condition to address their own concerns, and 44% helped calm other people with their condition.

One statistic that has the potential for significant impact: Already at this early stage, 36% of patients have discussed this coronavirus with their healthcare providers. As burdens on doctors and the healthcare system continue to grow, this number is a call to action for patient groups and other organizations with public platforms to gather current facts and share them with patients in their disease areas quickly and effectively, survey authors wrote.

THE LARGER TREND

Aside from more general concerns, 69% of close to 600 individual and family health insurance enrollees lack a basic understanding of how testing and treatment of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus would be covered by their health insurance plan, according to a survey released last week by eHealth.

A similar figure, 64%, say they could not afford to pay out their full annual deductible if hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the college educated and affluent are better able to make lifestyle adjustments in the face of coronavirus: 52% of college graduates and 60% of those with incomes of $100,000 to $150,000 say they have a job allowing them work from home, compared to 19% of those with a high school education and 36% of those earning less than $25,000 per year.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com