More Americans Report Taking Better Care of Their Health During Pandemic

More Americans Report Taking Better Care of Their Health During Pandemic

Amid pandemic-era social distancing guidelines, consumers shift from primary care providers to other health care options
A woman outside in the morning

While the coronavirus pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have impacted the lives of millions of Americans, new findings from CVS Health show that these circumstances also encouraged many to take better care of themselves.

The 2021 Health Care Insights Study revealed that, for 77% of consumers, the health crisis has prompted them to pay more attention to their health while another 50% said that they were able to achieve their health goals amid stay-at-home orders.

Consumers turn to virtual care and other health care alternatives during COVID-19 pandemic

The CVS Health report found that access to health insurance coverage (55%) and location of care (43%) were some of the biggest factors influencing consumer health care decisions, which may be why they're now looking into different ways to receive the care they need. Compared with routine care from primary care providers (PCPs), which dropped from 62% last year to 56% this year, more people have turned to other health care alternatives such as:

  • Online resources (19% vs. 12% in 2020)
  • Community health centers (19% vs. 15% in 2020)
  • Local pharmacies (17% vs. 11% in 2020)

Annual wellness checkups with PCPs remain important, although a survey from Aflac found that 45% of men hadn't seen their provider for one in the past year. Similarly, the CVS survey showed that women (73%) were more likely than men (58%) to communicate with their care provider as a result of their annual checkup.

Instead of their routine in-person checkups, many turned to virtual tools to address their health needs and concerns. According to the report's findings, 57% of consumers used virtual care for a health care visit over the past year. A different survey from Twentyeight Health discovered that telehealth services have also helped women, particularly those in lower-income communities, get better access to birth control.

Providers also noted that:

  • Virtual care improved their ability to provide care for their patients (80%)
  • Virtual visits would be very or somewhat valuable for their patients in terms of communication (72%)
  • Telehealth would be very or somewhat valuable for their patients in terms of communication (71%)
  • Virtual care improved their ability to spend adequate time with their patients (55%)

Respondents burdened by mental illness and health care costs

The Health Care Insights Study also looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Americans and their health over the past year — and its findings are concerning.

Not only has consumer use of nicotine (21%), alcohol (20%) and opioids (10%) increased since the start of the health crisis, 76% of providers say that a high or moderate proportion of their patients now face mental health issues.

Young adults (between 18 to 34 years old) were the most likely age group to be affected by depression (35%) and mental illness overall (28%), compared with the general population (23%). However, 74% of respondents said they did not seek out mental health services for their concerns, perhaps due to the inability of many to afford it. Indeed, the findings show that the cost of care prevents 28% of consumers from getting the mental or behavioral support they need.

This is just one example of how high health care costs and a general lack of transparency about them prevent many Americans from getting vital care during a global health crisis. Although 85% of consumers agree that health care costs are at least somewhat important to their health, CVS also found that:

  • 61% say their providers have not asked about affordability of health care or discussed resources to assist with costs
  • 25% have little or no familiarity with the out-of-pocket costs they pay for medical care
  • 23% do not understand how to look at their health plan to understand out-of-pocket costs

Methodology: Market Measurement conducted two surveys in conjunction with CVS Health in March 2021. The consumer survey gathered data from 1,000 US adults (ages 18 and up), with an oversample from five metropolitan statistical areas (Phoenix; Columbus, Ohio; Tampa, Florida; Houston and Philadelphia) and two ethnic groups (Black and Latino consumers).

It also polled 400 providers, focusing on primary care physicians and specialists with two or more years of experience, plus licensed clinical workers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses and pharmacists.