Toll of pandemic's first surge on health plan colonoscopies — 4 insights

COVID-19-related delays devastated the gastroenterology sector at the height of the initial surge. 

Managed Healthcare Executive reviewed monthly procedure volumes from an unidentified commercial health plan's medical claims dataset and reported key findings Jan. 11. The health plan has more than a million members. 

Here's what you should know:

1. In April 2020, procedure volume fell about 50 percent, and recovered by June. The drop in April represented 1.4 million procedures accounting for a medical spend of about $200 million. 

2. From March 2020 to May 2020, the health plan members stopped receiving colonoscopies.  Regular volume of 7,500 colonoscopies a month dropped to just 500 per month. 

3. Although colonoscopy volume recovered in June, the delay accounted for a deficit of 15,000 colonoscopies. 

4. The deficit could result in 12 preventable deaths from colon cancer, according to estimates from the Journal of Medical Screening. 

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