Physician Visits Increasing; Reasons Unclear

Aug 7, 2012, 2:00 PM

Americans’ visits to physicians had become less frequent in recent years, at least in part because of patients’ financial concerns.  But they’re apparently beginning to pick up again. American Medical News reports that recent data from insurers, consultants and analysts shows physician visit volume has risen, and that patients are reporting fewer problems affording care.

Among the encouraging data points:

- A June research note from analyst Charles Boorady of Citigroup Investment Research shows physician visit volume rose by 4.8 percent over the second quarter of 2012. The number is good news on its own, but the trend line it represents may be just as telling: The comparable quarter of 2011 saw an 8.9 percent decline.
- In a March Gallup poll, 80.9 percent of respondents said they had no problem affording needed health care. Though this number is slightly lower than in February 2011, it is up from the 77.7 percent who responded similarly when the recession hit in late 2008.
- Data from Truven Health Analytics, formerly Thomson Reuters Healthcare, finds that visits to family doctors, internists, ob-gyns and pediatricians rose in May and June.

Though an easing of financial pressures could be behind the rising number of patient visits to physicians’ offices, the American Medical News story notes that some experts think the Affordable Care Act may also be playing a part: Now that many preventive services are covered free of charge, more patients may be seeking out these services.

What do you think? What’s behind the trend in increased physician visits? Is it due to patients’ finances, health reform, both or neither? Register below to leave a comment.

Read the American Medical News story.
Read the RWJF Human Capital Blog’s previous coverage of declines in physician visits here

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.