For the past two years our news feeds have been consumed by COVID topics. We recognize how challenging sifting through all this information can be, and throughout the pandemic, we’ve been dedicated to providing you with up-to-date insights about how COVID is affecting the point-of-care landscape.
While COVID remains a reality, we are encouraged by the data, which shows things are getting better. More than 500 million vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., increased testing options are now available and, most promising, the ratio between COVID-related mortality and incidence has dramatically reduced (-70%).
The ‘new normal’ we now live in is increasingly resembling pre-COVID life, including at the doctor’s office. Let’s look at the latest impact COVID has had on this care setting.
Patient Traffic Remains at Pre-COVID Levels
Surging cases have put pressure on hospital staff and beds, but outside the hospital it is a different story. The original impact of COVID on physician office visits was acute as patient traffic recovered quickly following the initial outbreak. In 2020, nearly all specialties saw annual traffic within +/-10% of the prior yeari. Visits may have been delayed due to COVID but they were not lost.
Reviewing patient traffic by specialty, we see primary care office trends are reflective of most all other specialties, with patient traffic remaining constant throughout 2021.
Wait Times Continue to Increase
Our data shows patient wait times have also returned to pre-COVID norms. Current research shows that 96% of patients are spending time in the waiting room, with fewer patients (about a quarter) also waiting outside before coming into the waiting room. (Only 3% waited outside with no additional time spent in the waiting roomi.) The length of the wait has also returned to prior levels, with patients waiting on average nearly 14 minutes in the waiting room and another 12 minutes in the exam room.
The University of Washington's projections give us hope that we have seen the peak of Omicron. As cases of Omicron fade, maybe COVID as a whole will follow suit. I know we all look forward to the day when we don’t have to remember our masks or worry about the slightest sniffle. Even if this is not the case and COVID continues to be the guest that overstays its welcome, we can take some solace that we are still able to go about our lives as we have been.
i Data as of 12/15/2021. Waiting = 1+ minutes spent waiting in a location. Among all participants (N=1,360). Missing values excluded. “During your most recent visit to your healthcare professional about how many minutes did you spend...?” 2021 Nationwide Web Surveys of 1,579 respondents who visited physician offices installed with the PatientPoint Interact Program