NEW YORK — Two in five Americans are taking time off not to relax, but to catch up on overdue doctors’ appointments, according to new research. A new survey of 1,500 Americans and 500 medical professionals finds 42 percent are planning to take time off work solely for medical appointments.
Why do respondents feel the need to use up their vacation days for appointments? As with many things, blame it on the pandemic. Half the poll says they’ve put off seeing a doctor within the past year. Three in 10 (29%) haven’t seen a doctor in more than six months. The checkups that Americans are most behind on include full physicals (35%), dental cleanings (31%), and eye exams (23%).
In any other year, doctors’ appointments may have seemed tedious and annoying, but the survey reveals 52 percent actually miss these tedious events now. Fifty-one percent are planning to catch up on these appointments after getting their COVID vaccine.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Abridge, the survey also finds 59 percent of respondents feel like they can start returning to their normal life as more people receive vaccinations.
One of the top things they seem to be ticking off on their return-to-normal checklist are those overdue doctors’ appointments, especially the 53 percent who prefer to seek medical care in person.
The convenience of telehealth
Although 44 percent agree that telehealth appointments are shorter than in-person visits and one in five (21%) wouldn’t mind continuing with a mix of both in-person and telehealth care, the majority of Americans (59%) think in-person appointments offer better medical care.
Medical professionals are also torn between both kinds of appointments; 71 percent of the 500 medical professionals in the survey agree that telehealth has made it easier to see a larger number of patients every day. However, nearly all of them (93%) admit that there are some in-person checkup necessities they can’t do over a video screen.
“The pandemic forced people to seek out new modes of care. While access to telehealth has proven to be convenient for some types of care, care delivery as a whole has become more fragmented,” says Dr. Shiv Rao, co-founder and CEO of Abridge, in a statement. “That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a way for people to stay on top of their health and remember the details of their care plan, across telehealth and in-person visits.”
Whether through telehealth or in-person visits, the average person forgets over half of the information from their doctors’ appointments. This view is also held by medical professionals, with 56 percent thinking that their patients retain even less than half of the information they share with them.
The top things medical professionals say their patients are most likely to forget are details about medications and next steps in treatment (51% each). Half of medical professionals polled add their patients are likely to forget about the lifestyle changes they discussed.
Most medical professionals (70%) note their patients call them to ask for advice or verify information they had previously shared during an appointment.
Doctor appointment anxiety
This forgetfulness may likely be due to feeling nervous, anxious, or overwhelmed during appointments (52%), the study finds. Many also feel lost when their doctor uses complex medical terms during their appointments (49%).
Another 48 percent wish it were easier to keep track of next steps following their doctors’ appointments. Similarly, 44 percent of respondents would be interested in recording a doctor’s visit to better recall details and next steps.
Nearly all medical professionals (93%) stress the importance of patients understanding and following through with their care plan and 59 percent would even recommend their patients use their phone to record information about next steps.
“Recording doctor’s appointments has become more mainstream during the pandemic,” Rao adds. “With not being able to bring family to appointments, patients and doctors have both recognized the benefits of sharing important healthcare updates with others in their lives.”