Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients with chronic illnesses avoided regular medical care, raising concerns about long-term complications. Our objective was to identify a population of older patients with chronic conditions who may be at risk from delayed or missed care (DMC) and follow their non-COVID outcomes during the pandemic.
Methods: We used a retrospective matched cohort design using Medicare claims and electronic health records at a large health system with community and academic clinics. Participants included 14,406 patients over 65 years old with two or more chronic conditions who had 1 year of baseline data and up to 9 months of postpandemic follow-up from March 1, 2019 to December 31, 2020; and 14,406 matched comparison patients from 1 year prior. Risk from DMC was defined by 13 indicators, including chronic conditions, frailty, disability affecting the use of telehealth, recent unplanned acute care, prior missed outpatient care, and social determinants of health. Outcomes included mortality, inpatient events, Medicare payments, and primary care and specialty care visits (in-person and telehealth).
Results: A total of 25% of patients had four or more indicators for risk from DMC. Per 1000 patients annually, those with four or more indicators had increased mortality of 19 patients (95% confidence interval, 4 to 32) and decreased utilization, including unplanned events (-496 events, -611 to -381) and primary care visits (-1578 visits, -1793 to -1401).
Conclusions: Older patients who had four or more indicators for risk from DMC had higher mortality and steep declines in inpatient and outpatient utilization during the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Medicare; delayed care; multiple chronic conditions.
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The American Geriatrics Society.