Playing Defense?

Health Care in the Era of Covid

Published in: Journal of Health Economics (2022). doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2022.102665

Posted on RAND.org on July 28, 2022

by Edward N. Okeke

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Health workers have to balance their own welfare vs. that of their patients particularly when patients have a readily transmissible disease. These risks become more consequential during an outbreak, and especially so when the chance of severe illness or mortality is non-negligible. One way to reduce risk is by reducing contact with patients. Such changes could be along the intensive or extensive margins. Using data on primary care outpatient encounters during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, I document important changes in the intensity of provider-patient interactions. Significantly, I find that adherence to clinical guidelines, the probability that routine procedures such as physical examinations were completed, and even the quality of information given by health providers, all declined sharply. I present evidence that these effects likely reflect risk mitigation behavior by health providers.

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