U.S. Sees Dramatic Drop in Routine Testing Amid Pandemic

A new report from Komodo Health shows that diagnostic testing for cancer and other conditions has declined across the U.S. since mid-March following regional lockdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Komodo Health analyzed billing records of 320 million patients from March 19 through April 20 and found that cervical cancer screenings have dropped by 68 percent, cholesterol tests have fallen by 67 percent, and diabetes detection testing was down 65 percent nationally.

The greatest reductions happened in areas that have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. A1c tests, to detect diabetes, fell by more than 90 percent in New York City; in Massachusetts, cholesterol testing dropped 80.5 percent; and in California, cervical cancer screening dropped by 76.3 percent.

“We’re seeing a tremendous impact on preventive care, as well as on chronic conditions with massive implications for the healthcare system,” said Komodo Health Co-founder and CEO Arif Nathoo, MD.

As patients put off routine diagnostic and screening tests, the backlog for hospitals and clinics increases, which creates future challenges for healthcare providers. Several small practices reported that they estimate a 4- to 6-month delay in testing for each month of lockdown.

Medical testing and the subsequent office visits, surgeries, and treatments are a major source of revenue for health systems that had to temporarily stop performing lucrative elective procedures to make space for COVID-19 patients. While they may not be as lucrative for hospitals and doctors as elective surgeries, routine office visits and examinations keep many small medical practices afloat, particularly in low-income or rural communities that were already in trouble before the coronavirus pandemic began. Without revenue from regular patients, many of the health systems in these areas are at risk of even more financial problems.

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