More than half of physicians have seen an increase in patients who are unhoused or in poverty over the past year

Physician Insights from Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer Survey Reveal Hidden Health Impact of Pandemic-Driven Poverty

New York  – March 16, 2021 – One year after COVID-19 triggered a lockdown, economic downturn and devastating global unemployment, a Sermo survey of 2,696 physicians around the world revealed that an increasing number of patients are dealing with homelessness and an inability to afford treatments/medicines, raising concerns on the long-term health consequences beyond coronavirus. Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer also found that a large number of physicians report they are treating people for stress related to the pandemic, and are finding their own stress to be increasing.  

Economic Impact of COVID-19

Fielded Feb. 25, 2021-March 1, 2021, Study 17 found that more than half (53%) of respondents reported seeing an increase over the past year in the number of patients who are unhoused or in poverty and are unable to afford treatment/prescriptions (56%). Physicians also reported that food insecurity/malnutrition (53%) and an increase in substance use and abuse (52%) were health issues resulting from the rising level of poverty.

Additionally, 55% surveyed reported they have seen an increase in patients moving or changing physicians because they have lost their job and/or their house over the past year. 

“Regardless of country and whether they have a nationalized health system, physicians are witnessing dire health consequences due to the economic fall-out caused by COVID-19,” said Peter Kirk, CEO of Sermo. “A chief concern is the long-term impact on people’s health and wellness that isn’t directly related to the pandemic once the worst of the COVID-19 storm has passed.”

In the U.S., three out of four (73%) physicians noted that patients have forgone necessary treatments or appointments because they have lost their health insurance and/or were concerned over the cost. More than 60% of these same respondents reported medications for diabetes and high blood pressure — diseases that disproportionately affect low-income households — were most often skipped. One out of four (24%) felt maternal health was one of the biggest health issues associated with homelessness.

COVID-19 Impact on Health Systems

Physicians surveyed recognized the impact of COVID-19 on the entire healthcare continuum. Worldwide 56% believed there will be an increased strain on health systems from medical emergencies because of delaying access to healthcare. In the U.S., 57% of physicians recommended a free medical clinic when they discovered a patient is unhoused or in poverty — at a time when many of these health clinics are already at capacity.

Stress and the Pandemic

The study also found that 81% of physicians have treated patients suffering from stress related to the pandemic, and 79% reveal that they personally have found their stress levels to be increased over the last year. Their recommendations — both for their patients and personally — are to utilize a variety of coping strategies, including exercise (74% and 73%, respectively), meditation (45% and 42%) and even scream therapy (9% and 6%). 

About the Real Time Barometer

The Real Time Barometer is an observational study of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as reported by physicians with firsthand experience treating COVID-19 patients. Each week, thousands of physicians provide insights on topics regarding the global health crisis. To date, Sermo has conducted over 70,000 interviews with doctors in 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Russia, China, Japan and Australia. Full results are available at sermo.com.

About Sermo

Sermo turns physician experience, expertise, and observations into actionable insights for the global healthcare community. Engaging with more than 1.3 million HCPs across 150 countries, the company provides physicians with a social platform and unique community that fosters impactful peer-to-peer collaboration & discussions about issues that are important to them and their patients. Sermo offers on demand access to physicians via a suite of proprietary technology to provide business intelligence that benefits pharmaceutical, healthcare partners and the medical community at large. To learn more, visit www.sermo.com 

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