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As health care consumers and as patients, people don’t always do the right thing—even in the best of times.


In our day jobs, we often wonder how to get employees to go for a mammogram, colonoscopy or annual flu shot. Fear, inertia and poor health literacy all contribute to this ongoing challenge of connecting employees to the care they need to stay healthy and productive.

Add a global pandemic to the mix and even those employees who are 100% compliant in normal times may be put in a position of foregoing care.

Earlier this year, many states implemented limits on elective care to safeguard the capacity in the health care system in the face of COVID-19. As a result, people found themselves in the position of having to wait. Depending on where you lived, it wasn’t possible to move forward with a procedure like a screening colonoscopy or a hip replacement. Some primary care physicians were operating in a limited capacity or had moved mostly to telemedicine. Even if the doctor was in, some people stayed away.

And, it wasn’t only medical care. In some places even dental practices were put on pause so the PPE they would have used could be diverted to other health care settings.

For a while there, it actually felt like things were getting somewhat back to normal. The log jam of deferred or missed care was loosening and for some specialties, visits had actually rebounded higher than pre-pandemic levels.

But as we are all experiencing, in a pandemic, there’s no such thing as normal; there’s constant flux. Numbers we saw just a week or month ago change quickly. And, unfortunately, what we’re seeing now is the number of cases surging across the US, with experts predicting this trend will continue throughout the winter. This means that deferring or cancelling care may not be behind us. It’s a problem with a longer tail as communities with outbreaks attempt to flatten the curve. With hospital capacity stretched thin in many places across the country, elective procedures are likely once again to be put on the back burner.

When care is deferred—or cancelled—potentially serious conditions can go undiagnosed or untreated. In the absence of preventive intervention like vaccination, which takes place on a specific schedule, children become more susceptible to infectious diseases. Both these scenarios can lead to increased health care costs and possibly poor outcomes.

As effective vaccinations for COVID are developed, approved and administered, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it will be many months before we can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Before we get to that point, pressures on the health care system will continue to create pent-up demand that will need to be managed for some time to come.

Employers can help employees through the challenges by taking a proactive approach to communication and engagement. A personalized benefits experience leverages data and technology to deliver meaningful support as employees use their benefits, guiding them to the best options and care for them, something that’s especially important as we navigate through a health care system trying to address communities’ regular needs while simultaneously balancing the need to address a pandemic.

With the health care challenges the nation has seen, and continues to see, employees are more focused than ever on their benefits and they are looking to their employers for help in understanding and using their coverage.

In a reality where necessary care has been deferred or even cancelled, employees need this help more than ever to ensure they remain safe and healthy.

Read our e-book below about the impacts of deferred care and how employers can meet their employees’ needs for personalized support and guidance.

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View all Posts by Sherri Bockhorst