Current State: Health Care in the United States
Our nation and the world continue to battle COVID-19. In the United States alone, cases of the virus have topped 3.3 million with more than 135,000 deaths. Amid these numbers, we see health care vulnerabilities exposed and exacerbated. Last week, AMCP hosted a webinar on COVID-19 and its impact on health care. I was pleased to welcome back Doug Long, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA. He shared with the audience his up-to-the-minute insights on a variety of topics, including the drug supply chain, prescription and telehealth trends, cancer screening and treatment, and more.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented, substantial impact on health care trends specifically related to prescription drugs,” Long said. “It also has had a significant impact on the U.S. drug supply chain to where it can be considered a supply chain disruptor.” Further, supply chain is now a recognized pillar of medical innovation.
Long dug into COVID-19 statistics, explaining that COVID has mutated into two main strains — one that originated in China and another in Italy. “This mutation will make finding a vaccine more difficult,” Long said. He explained that the meaningful numbers, as far as health statistics related to the virus, are the number of deaths and the number of hospitalizations.
“Looking at those statistics, the virus is less deadly than it was before.”
He said all but six U.S. states have experienced an increase in virus cases after re-opening.
“At its peak, COVID-19 was one of the leading causes of death in the United States and other Western Countries. We saw above-normal numbers for deaths in related patient-disease categories.”
Additional information was released last week in a new study that examined 17 million COVID-19 related deaths in England. The study identified older people, men, Black and South Asian people, and those with underlying health conditions among the more vulnerable populations.
“This highlights a lot of what we already know about COVID-19,” said Uchechi Mitchell, a public health expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a New York Times article about the research. “But a lot of science is about repetition. The size of the study alone is a strength, and there is a need to continue documenting disparities.”
Contrary to the beginning of the pandemic, people are visiting their doctors’ offices and hospitals more frequently as states reopen, but Long cautions that elective procedures, prescriptions, and lab orders are still lower than average.
Since he last spoke to an AMCP audience during eLearning Days, Long says telehealth appointments, which increased at the beginning of the pandemic, have remained stable. Patients are using telehealth for all types of conditions; however, there has been a notable increase in patients using telehealth for chronic, asymptomatic conditions.
“Despite the growth of telemedicine, it has not made up for prescriptions for new-brand drugs,” Long said. “These telehealth visits typically are shorter and there is more reluctance to prescribe drugs remotely and without more diagnostic measures such as vitals and labs.”
Long also shared that oncology visits are showing strong signs of rebounding to pre-COVID-19 levels with some variability in referrals based on tumor type.
Lastly, Long presented data on the pharmacist-patient relationship. He said, “Pharmacy services can have a huge impact on patient access as patients visit a pharmacy 10 times more often than a physician’s office.” He underscored what we already know — pharmacists’ roles are expanding in multiple areas of health care, including chronic disease management, specialty Medicare and counseling, immunizations, and preventive health screenings.
Information You Can Count On
The state of health care in the United States is constantly fluctuating, especially given the many unknowns related to COVID-19. At AMCP, presenting the latest information available, such as this webinar, is just one way we remain committed to supporting our members and the industry. Additionally, in May, we released the results of a national consumer poll we conducted in collaboration with the Alliance for Community Health Plans on consumer attitudes and behavior regarding health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. You will find some of the highlights of this poll, along with many additional resources on the AMCP website’s COVID-19 Resource Center. Thank you for your dedication to health care.