As Many States Resume Elective Procedures, Ongoing TransUnion Healthcare Research Indicates Hospital Visits May Have Hit Bottom
Analysis shows Millennial hospital visits declined the least amidst COVID-19, whereas Baby Boomers and Silent Generation declined the most and are driving re-engagement
As the world navigates the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing research from TransUnion Healthcare (NYSE: TRU) indicates hospital visit volumes further declined 33-62% between the weeks of March 1-7 and April 12-18. The analysis highlights that hospital visits may have reached their lowest levels and recent trends also suggest early signs of improvement as states begin to re-open and allow hospitals to resume elective procedures.
The updated analysis of 500+ hospitals across the United States also found the trend is more encouraging when looking at outpatient hospital visits. Although outpatient volumes continued to slide into early April, they may have bottomed one week earlier, during the week of April 5-11.
Further, the analysis revealed that outpatient hospital visits experienced a record one-week 64% decline during the week of April 5-11, as compared to pre-COVID-19 volumes*. However, outpatient hospital visit volumes rose approximately 4% between the weeks of April 5-11 and April 12-18 – the first increase seen in visit volumes in the time since COVID-19 was labelled a pandemic.
“With many states resuming elective surgeries, we continue to track healthcare utilization trends in an effort to share timely insights with providers during this uncertain time,” said David Wojczynski, president of TransUnion Healthcare. “Our research suggests that as hospital providers look to re-engage patients and resume elective procedures, the slight rise in outpatient visits may indicate very early stages of patient volume recovery. We’re also seeing compelling variation in hospital visits across generations which has implications for re-engagement.”
Hospital visit behavior varied across generations pointing to re-engagement implications
During the timeframe when the greatest decline in hospital visit volumes occurred (March 22-28 through April 12-18), TransUnion Healthcare observed generational differences. Millennial and Gen Z visits had the least decline in this time period (44% decrease for each, respectively) illustrating a greater desire to seek care when needed, compared to other generations regardless of COVID-19. Baby Boomers and Silent Generation visit volumes had the largest decline during this timeframe (59% and 58%, respectively), indicating these generations avoided seeking care the most amidst COVID-19.
Looking specifically at the 4% increase in outpatient visit volumes from the weeks of April 5-11 and April 12-18, the research indicates this trend was partly driven by the older generations who avoided care the most in light of COVID-19 and are slowly beginning to re-engage.
When considering that it may take patients months to reschedule elective procedures due to backlogs created, a recent TransUnion Healthcare survey found Millennials are eager to reschedule with providers. Of the Millennial patients who reported having an elective procedure delayed or cancelled as a result of COVID-19 (30%), 46% of those Millennials plan to reschedule as soon as their healthcare provider allows them to do so. Comparatively, of the patients across all generations that had an elective procedure deferred (27%), 39% plan to reschedule as soon as their provider allows.
“As providers approach patients, one consideration will be to check-in with those who may have delayed necessary care the most, then engage those who would like to reschedule as soon as possible. Our findings show Millennials and Gen X are the most willing and comfortable to move forward, while Baby Boomers and Silent Generation may have delayed necessary care amidst COVID-19,” said Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare. “Even with these insights, it will be imperative that providers proactively engage patients to ensure they feel comfortable to return for their procedures in an effort to build trust with them and maximize care delivery.”
COVID-19 impacts to health insurance coverage and desire to understand financial burden
With providers developing strategies to re-approach patients, it will be important to keep in mind the broader financial impacts of COVID-19 across various generations.
The survey – which was conducted online among 2,502 U.S. adults ages 18 years or older during the week of April 13 – found one in four consumers (26%) reported job loss, due to COVID-19, impacted their health insurance coverage, and a higher percentage of these respondents are from younger generations (Gen Z – 43%; Millennial – 37%; Gen X – 28%; Baby Boomers – 8%). Further, these findings are in line with TransUnion’s Global COVID-19 Financial Hardship study which revealed Millennials are the hardest hit of all generations across the globe.
As a result, these heavily-impacted younger generations will proactively seek information on how to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic. Of the Millennial respondents who report their health insurance was impacted due to job loss, 71% mostly or fully understand the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) and how it impacts them and their families financially. This percentage increases slightly to 74% for Gen Z respondents. For comparison, 52% of respondents across all generations report this same level of understanding of the two statutes.
“It’s encouraging to see younger generations who have been particularly impacted by COVID-19 continue to take a proactive approach and even more critical for providers to share as much information about all healthcare costs as possible during this uncertain time,” said Wiik.
Providers face immense challenges as transparency continues to be top of mind for patients
As hospitals begin to resume elective procedures and states develop plans to reopen their economies, transparency around healthcare costs will remain a primary concern for patients as they look to re-engage – particularly those from younger generations.
“With unemployment at an all-time high, our latest survey finds patients continue to expect transparency around healthcare costs -- now more than ever,” said Wojczynski. “And similar to before COVID-19, we’re seeing an ongoing reliance on providers to not only deliver quality care, but also serve as invaluable resources for trustworthy insights around the cost aspects coming out of COVID-19.”
For more information on the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry, as well as additional resources from TransUnion Healthcare, visit transunion.com/healthcare-covid-19.
*TransUnion Healthcare defines pre-COVID-19 volumes as the average weekly visits measured during the first 8 full weeks of the year, from the weeks of January 5-11 through February 23-29.
About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU)
TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.®
TransUnion Healthcare, a wholly owned subsidiary of TransUnion, makes mutual trust possible between patients, providers, and payers by helping them navigate payment uncertainty. Our Revenue Protection® solutions leverage comprehensive data, accurate insights and industry expertise to engage patients early, ensure earned revenue gets paid and optimize payment strategies. TransUnion Healthcare helps over 1,850 hospitals and 550,000 physicians collectively recover more than $1.2 billion annually in revenue.
A leading presence in more than 30 countries across five continents, TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people.