A Nationally Representative Summary of 2020 Changes in the Use of Health Care in the United States

J Ambul Care Manage. 2024 Apr-Jun;47(2):64-83. doi: 10.1097/JAC.0000000000000488. Epub 2024 Feb 13.


The COVID-19 pandemic produced an unprecedented shock to the U.S. health care system. Prior literature documenting 2020 changes has been limited to certain types of care or subsets of patients. We use the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to summarize changes in all types of health care from 2018 through 2020. Outpatient visits, emergency department visits, and inpatient admissions each fell about 35% in April 2020. Dental visits fell over 80%. Ophthalmology visits declined 71% and mammograms 82%. Psychiatric visits rose slightly (1.6%). By the end of 2020, specialist physician visits recovered, though primary care and dental visits remained 12% lower than 2019.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Emergency Room Visits
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • United States