Health Check report provides look at impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems and choices
Data compiled for the annual Health Check: Analyzing Trends in West Michigan report adds weight to the anecdotes and assumptions experts made about how health care was consumed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, released February 3 by by Grand Valley's Seidman College of Business and Kirkhof College of Nursing, found that while access to health insurance surged – particularly among non-white individuals – during the pandemic, preventative care access saw a sharp downturn.
Among all people, close to 40 percent of individuals delayed care in the United States during the pandemic, the report said.
“It's important because delaying care not only increases morbidity and mortality risk associated with treatable and preventable disease, but it can also contribute to excess deaths directly or indirectly related to the pandemic.” said Erkmen Aslim, assistant professor of economics for the Seidman College of Business and one of the report’s authors.
Aslim noted rollouts of vaccines resulted in a sharp uptick in those seeking preventative care for non-COVID related issues, particularly among underserved populations.
“It seems like vaccination is beneficial for everyone,” he said. “But there are also differential trends here and it tells us that maybe minority groups as well as those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds are benefiting from vaccine rollout more than the other groups. We think that this is an important finding because medical innovations maybe reduce pre-existing disparities moving forward.”
Daniel Montanera, another co-author of Health Check and assistant professor of economics at Seidman, pointed toward lower overall in-patient hospitalization rates, reflecting people's decisions to delay elective care, and hospitals also temporarily limiting access to some treatments as they struggled with the pandemic and staffing issues.
He also noted an unusual uptick in outpatient visits to Grand Rapids hospitals while outpatient visits in other regions decreased during the pandemic.
He theorized Grand Rapids may have become a magnet for people from the Detroit area who could not or would not visit hospitals that were grappling with spikes in COVID-19.
The complete Health Check report and its associated data are available on the GVSU Health Campus website along with past editions of the report.
Health Check is in its 14th year. The ongoing and consistent analysis of health-related data over time is designed to serve as a tool for informed decision-making processes and policies in government, health care systems, education and business.
The report is compiled using data from insurance providers Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network and Priority Health along with information from the American Hospital Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources.