Among adult patients under 65, 95.4% with two or more chronic conditions and 88.9% with one chronic condition consulted with a healthcare professional in 2015 compared to 73.1% of patients with no conditions, according to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics.
The percentage of adult patients under 65 with two or more chronic conditions who delayed care for any reason fell from 34.3% in 2012 to 31.4% in 2015.
- The percentage of adult patients under 65 with two or more chronic conditions who delayed care for non-cost related reasons increased from 12.4% in 2012 to 14.6% in 2015.
Patients with chronic conditions are more likely to seek medical help than other patients and are less likely to delay care than they were several years ago. However, more of these patients are delaying care for reasons not related to cost. As for why these patients are delaying care, there is no clear answer, but it suggests that barriers are present.
Other data support findings from the CDC. Among those surveyed from 2009 to 2011, high-need patients with three or more chronic conditions were more likely to have a regular source of care than the general population, more likely to receive care from a medical home, and just as likely to have access to specialty care, according to an August 2016 report from the Commonwealth Fund. The patient experience for high-need patients did differ in some ways. High-need patients were more likely to have an unmet medical needs and to experience poor communication with providers.
Lack of access to transportation, finances and scarcity of certain specialty providers, particularly in rural areas, likely factor into data regarding delayed care and unmet medical needs. Data from the Commonwealth Fund report is also somewhat outdated. It could be that efforts to provide transportation and to expand access through technology have begun to change or will change the overall healthcare experience for high-need patients.
On the other hand, these theories do not explain why so many patients with chronic conditions are delaying care for non-cost reasons. If this is a trend that continues, it could be significant. Patients with chronic conditions are costly, accounting for 86% of healthcare spending in 2010, according to the CDC.