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Sick Over the Government Shutdown? 74% of Primary Care Physicians Report Their Patients Are Affected by It, According to Data from InCrowd

January 17, 2019

Sick Over the Government Shutdown? 74% of Primary Care Physicians Report
Their Patients Are Affected by It, According to Data from InCrowd

Missed doctor’s visits, non-compliance with medication reported; nearly half of respondents cite patient stress over finances or loss of benefits; only 15% of providers have contingency plan

WATERTOWN, MA January 17, 2019—Despite Federal assurances that critical elements of the US healthcare system remain intact during the government shutdown, the majority of US healthcare clinicians say their patients have been negatively affected by the shutdown. The data are from InCrowd, pioneer of the real-time market intelligence platform for the life sciences, and were sourced Friday, January 11, 2019.

Fifty-eight percent of US clinicians surveyed—including primary care physicians (PCPs), registered nurses (RNs), and physician assistants (PAs)—report that the patient population they treat has been affected by the shutdown. Physician reports of patient impact were even higher, with 74% of physicians stating that patients have been affected, compared to PAs (55%) and RNs (51%). Over a third of respondents (35%) reported that a notable portion of their patients have been affected, while 23% reported that at least a few patients have been affected.

Stress over limited finances and loss of their benefits was the top concern for patients, with nearly half of healthcare clinician respondents observing this in their patients, and 25% reporting it as their top frustration.

Other key findings include:

  • Patient access to care and compliance issues due to financial concerns and loss of benefits are already being observed by respondents. Forty percent of respondents reported a high degree of both issues with patients affording medicine and incidences where patient avoided treatments and appointments all together. Verbatim comments cited cancelled elective surgeries, Veterans Administration patients having difficulties obtaining prescriptions, and patient non-compliance with medication.Healthcare professionals (HCPs) working in impoverished areas noted immediate impact of income loss. “Given the area I live in, many of our patients are no longer receiving checks, which means they have to choose between either food or medication, which for those with families is an easy decision,” said a physician in Virginia.“The most frustrating thing is seeing patient that had been previously well controlled in their chronic medical illnesses now become on [out of] control because they cannot afford their medications and are using any money they have for basic needs,” said a physician from Ohio.
  • Lack of patient access ranked as the most frustrating aspect of the shutdown for respondents (28%). Many reported treatment compliance issues and missed appointments.
  • Forty-seven percent of respondents report exacerbation of anxiety and other mental health conditions being observed in a high frequency of patients. A quarter of respondents cited overwhelming feelings of helplessness and uncertainty around the shutdown as a major contributor negatively impacting patients’ wellbeing.
  • The physical and emotional toll on patients was strongly evident in HCP verbatim remarks. “My patients are some of the most vulnerable people in the area. They are terrified of losing the income they depend on to live. Many had their livelihoods taken from them due to illness or accident and can no longer work. They had to fight for SSDI benefits, so the prospect of having these benefits halted is completely terrifying to them,” said a case management nurse from Michigan.
  • Few organizations have contingency plans in case the shutdown persists. Only 15% of respondents report that their organization is considering a contingency plan if the shutdown continues—such as offering continued medical care to meet patient needs even if the patient is unable to pay for them or offering payment plans. Of those 85% of respondents from organizations without contingency plans, the majority—76%—said they have not yet discussed these plans. Nine percent said that their organizations have not dealt with enough adverse outcomes yet to incentivize planning.

The 5-minute MicroSurvey on the government shutdown’s impact on patients included data from 286 US clinicians (distributed from across the country and with a broad range of years in practice), with 165 of them observing patients affected, including 52 PCPs, 62 RNs, and 51 PAs who responded on Friday January 11, 2019.

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