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March 14, 2022

How health care's labor shortage is affecting patients

Daily Briefing

    More than half of Americans have been negatively affected by recent health care shortages, according to a new poll from the CVS Health-Harris Poll National Health Project—and many patients are beginning to lose patience.

    How patients have been affected by the health care shortage

    For the poll, CVS Health and The Harris Poll surveyed 2,020 U.S. adults between Feb. 10 and Feb. 15.

    According to the poll, many Americans are planning to prioritize their health going forward. For example, 47% said they wanted to be more physically active, 43% said they wanted to focus more on their health habits, and goals, and 35% said they were buying more products to protect their health.

    However, 43% of respondents said they are stressed about whether they will be able to access quality health care if needed. In addition, Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to report being concerned about their access to health care at 59% and 54%, respectively.

    In particular, 80% of respondents said they are concerned about the current shortage of health care workers—which the poll found has already negatively impacted a significant number of Americans.

    Overall, just over half (51%) of respondents said they experienced one or more health care shortages, many of which affected their primary care physicians. For example, 45% said they had trouble scheduling appointments since spots are limited, 36% said their physician's offices are operating on reduced hours, and 21% reported that their physicians stopped practicing completely.

    In addition, 31% said their local hospitals are overwhelmed and can't meet demand, and 25% said they have had treatments or surgeries delayed.

    John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said that the current health care shortage is "not only a problem that's been sort of hidden, but it's also causing significant sources of pain and frustration with people who really need these services."

    "This isn't your typical consumer good," he added. "This is people's health."

    According to Axios, consumers may also be less likely to tolerate or understand the source of supply or service delays. For example, a Harris poll from January found that while 59% of consumers believe supply chain delays are understandable due to the pandemic, 41% do not. Further, 52% of millennials said these service disruptions were unacceptable.

    Ultimately, "[p]atients are losing patience," Gerzema said. (Reed, Axios, 3/7; Gamble, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/8)

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