The necessary suspension of nonacute services by healthcare systems early in the COVID-19 pandemic was predicted to cause delays in routine care in the United States, with potentially serious consequences for chronic disease management. However, limited work has examined provider or patient perspectives about care delays and their implications for care quality in future healthcare emergencies.
This study explores primary care provider (PCP) and patient experiences with healthcare delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PCPs and patients were recruited from four large healthcare systems in three states. Participants underwent semistructured interviews asking about their experiences with primary care and telemedicine. Data were analyzed using interpretive description.
Twenty-one PCPs and 65 patients participated in interviews. Four main topics were identified: (1) types of care delayed, (2) causes for delays, (3) miscommunication contributing to delays, and (4) patient solutions to unmet care needs.
Both patients and providers reported delays in preventive and routine care early in the pandemic, driven by healthcare system changes and patient concerns about infection risk. Primary care practices should develop plans for care continuity and consider new strategies for assessing care quality for effective chronic disease management in future healthcare system disruptions.