Poll: Older Adults' Healthcare Plans Disrupted by Pandemic

Feb. 17, 2022
The University of Michigan’s “National Poll on Health Aging” recently published findings on the effects of pandemic-related disruption to routine healthcare—older adults could have long lasting health consequences

New findings from the “National Poll on Healthy Aging” from the University of Michigan show the lingering effects of pandemic-related disruptions to routine healthcare, which could have lasting implications for older adults’ health. The poll is based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine.

The report states that “They had the appointments on their calendars, for weeks or months, to see their doctor or dentist, or to have an operation, procedure or medical test. But the pandemic disrupted those plans for around 30 percent of older adults with a scheduled appointment for each of these kinds of health care, according to a new poll of people age[d] 50 and older.”

Further, “And many of them—especially those who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19—still haven’t gotten the preventive care or treatment that they had been scheduled to get last year.”

Key findings include:

  • Fourteen percent of respondents say they had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled a procedure, operation, or test in the past year
    • Eight percent say their provider has done so
  • Forty-four percent of unvaccinated older adults whose test, procedure, or operation was disrupted have rescheduled it
    • Eighty-one percent of vaccinated and boosted older adults have rescheduled a test, procedure, or operation
  • Fifteen percent of all older adults say they had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled a visit to their primary care provider for a COVID-related reason in the past year
    • Eleven percent say their provider had postponed, rescheduled or cancelled their appointment.
  • Twenty-nine percent of older adults who had a primary care appointment scheduled in 2021 percent say they had a disruption to that plan related to COVID-19
  • Fifty-three percent of unvaccinated people have rescheduled a primary care appointment that was disrupted by the pandemic in 2021
    • Eighty-five percent of boosted adults and 74 percent of vaccinated adults have rescheduled a primary care appointment
  • Eighteen percent of all older adults say they had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled a dental appointment in the past year for a COVID-related reason
    • Eight percent say their provider had postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled their appointment

People who had received a booster dose of vaccine in addition to the primary doses were more likely (36 percent) than non-boosted (21 percent) and unvaccinated (23 percent) adults to report that a dental appointment they had planned to have in 2021 was disrupted for a COVID-related reason

The difference in rescheduling between adults of different vaccination status was also seen in dental care. Only 30 percent of unvaccinated people say they had rescheduled their disrupted dental appointment, compared with 64 percent of vaccinated and boosted people.

The report adds that “Like the national population of all people 50 and older, a large majority (83 percent) of the 1,011 poll respondents said they had been vaccinated. Booster doses were reported by 70 percent of people aged 50-64 who had been vaccinated, and 83 percent of vaccinated people over 65. But 23 percent of people aged 50 to 64, and 11 percent of people over 65, said they are not vaccinated. Unvaccinated people were more likely to be white, to have incomes under $30,000, or to have a high school education or less.”

Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D., associate director of the poll and a health care researcher and associate professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine and provides primary care to Veterans at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare system, was quoted in the report saying that “Whether they chose to postpone or their provider did, these patients missed opportunities for preventive care and for early detection and effective management of chronic conditions, not to mention operations and procedures to address a pressing health need. The fact that half or more unvaccinated people have not yet rescheduled those disrupted appointments is especially concerning, because every encounter with a health care provider is also an opportunity to talk about the benefits and safety of COVID vaccination for older adults.”