IQVIA's Doug Long shared a torrent of data illustrating the effects of the pandemic — and its unintended effects, such as far fewer flu cases — on utilization, diagnostic visits and drug prescriptions. Whether there will be a 2021-22 flu season is one of the many wild cards in the months ahead.
The COVID-19 pandemic left no part of the American healthcare system untouched in 2020 and even as the country and healthcare system rebounds, the pandemic influence is apparent and likely to be lasting, according to a stream of facts and figures presented today by Doug Long, MBA, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA at the 2021 Annual National Conference of the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute® in Orlando, Florida.
Using sales and other sorts of data assembled by IQVIA, Long showed that a billion fewer visits that resulted in a diagnosis occurred in 2020 than in the past, which works out to a 20% decrease. This year, people are starting to come back for visits, but Long shared data showing that diagnostic visits are still substantially down. Fewer diagnostic visits result in fewer prescriptions, and Long showed a wide assortment of data documenting various aspects of the effect on drug prescriptions and sales.
Lockdowns and people’s hesitancy to seek in-person healthcare are part of the reason for fewer visits, Long explained. But the dramatic decline in flu cases last year and first part of this year was another significant factor, and Long said one of the major questions in the months ahead is whether flu will resume to normal levels. He showed data from Australia, which has a southern hemisphere flu season ahead of countries in the northern hemisphere, that suggests that there will still be far fewer cases of flu and therefore fewer diagnostic visits, especially for pediatricians.
Long’s data also showed the much-discussed increase use of telehealth. In the past, telehealth visits have tended to generate fewer prescriptions than in-person visits because the lab and other tests that result in prescriptions are not done as often if a patient is seen digitally. As telehealth becomes a more fixed part of healthcare delivery, that separation from testing and prescriptions may change.
“What is going to be interesting to watch is how digital plays into the marketplace,” Long said in a brief interview Managed Healthcare Executive® after his talk.
Here are some other data that Long discussed during this PBMI presentation