Fear of infection during consultation has become a serious health risk
There is no doubt that fear of infection has played a role against the pandemic. Given lack of effective treatments or implementation of trusted and approved vaccines, the social response to the pandemic has been one of the dominant drives that defined the curves of infection in the different societies. Those that due to fear of infection of themselves or their loved ones have shown lhigher risk avoiding attitudes like social distancing, use of protection or limiting social activities were indeed less likely to have got infected.
However a recent study run by Fine Research with over 2500 HCPs in LatAm shows that this same fear of infection is also driving a negative effect on health. In this study doctors estimated that before the pandemic roughly 7 out of 10 of their patients were being able to be properly compliant to their prescribed treatment.
When asked about their current patient adherence to their treatments now they estimated that this was reduced and only 6 out of 10 are being able to do so. And this is affecting all kind of life threatening diseases such as cardiodological diseases, cancer, diabetes or HIV.
What is more worrying is that reasons for non-compliance have also changed abruptly. While in the past the main reasons for low treatment adherence were treatment access restrictions including high cost of medicines, red tape or lack of approval of the best treatment options, now most physicians state that main reason for low treatment compliance is just that patients are afraid of getting infected during the consultation.
In the region the same survey shows that the number of patients cared by doctors have dropped in October by 35% compared to pre-pandemic levels, this is indeed a recovery compared to the sharp drop of 61% observed by a previous measurement in May, but still shows that the aggregated effect will have a significant impact on the health of the population.
In addition fear is not only affecting those that have a specific diagnosis but also those who are in risk of getting a disease. Doctors tell that they are performing less than half the number of cardiological check ups and about one third of the prostate and breast cancer controls, that they were doing before the pandemic. This obviously is meaning a likely higher number of cardiovascular events or late detected cancers which will likely impact mortality rates.
Consistently, when checked by specialty cardiologists, hematologists and oncologists are the most concerned about potential life impact of lack of in person care which could put in risk over half of their patients. In the other extreme, few psychiatrists see a similar risk with the added advantage that they are the ones who mostly perceive virtual consultation as a good fit to their practice in the current context and also in the future.
Regarding COVID-19 infections, hospitals are perceived as showing the higher risks, particularly in the hospitalization areas, and also if they are public, and COVID-19 reference centers. In comparison care taking place in doctor’s office, clinics or separated outpatient areas becomes a safer option not only based on HCPs assessment but also on the levels they have witnessed of own or patient infections in the different work settings
In summary, the data from this survey with physicians all over Latin America, shows that the healthcare system needs to continue developing protocols for safe care and properly communicate them so that not only the risk of infection is minimized but also patients could gain confidence and get back to meet their doctors to adequately address their own health.
Access here for a free download of the full report to check the emerging trends and how these vary among different countries and medical specialties. Resu;lts include details about transformation of the medical practice and relationships of HCPs and the pharma industry among other insights.