Quality of Care and Healthcare Services in Times of Economic Crisis

*The translation of this article in French and Portuguese has been made through machine translation and has not been edited yet. we apologise for any inaccuracies.

Is the quality of care suffering due to the economic crisis? 90% of respondents in our latest M3 Pulse survey think so. Over 4,400 physicians and healthcare professionals across 14 countries in the US and Europe shared their opinion about the global economic crisis and how it is impacting patient care and healthcare service delivery.

The world is currently seeing the highest levels of inflation since the 1970s. Recent increases in food, gas, goods, and energy prices affect every aspect of the global market, including the healthcare industry. Healthcare professionals are experiencing greater strains than ever as the healthcare system is overwhelmed with workforce and supply shortages, cost reductions, and widespread inequity. Consequently, cases of fatigue and burnout amongst physicians are being reported at unprecedented levels, leading to high staff attrition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently predicted a shortfall of 10 million health workers worldwide by 2030, leading to concerns about the potential impact on accessible and high-quality healthcare services available to patients. A few respondents in January’s M3 Pulse survey reported that they are planning to leave or have already left the medical profession due to unacceptable workloads and inadequate compensation. Check out the full results below.

Quality of care and healthcare service delivery in times of economic crisis

How Is the Quality of Care Suffering in an Economic Crisis? M3 Pulse Results

In our latest M3 Pulse survey that we conduct monthly, we asked thousands of healthcare professionals to share their opinions on the current economic crisis and its impact on the quality of care. The survey was conducted with 4,407 M3 panel members currently working as physicians or other healthcare professionals in 14 countries across Europe and the US.

We asked them: To what degree has the global economic crisis affected your ability to provide adequate levels of care over the last six months?

90% of all respondents thought that the economic crisis has affected care quality to some degree, while 8% think there has been very little, or no impact at all.

  • 21% of respondents feel demotivated due to the added work pressures caused by the economic crisis, which in turn affect the quality of care.
  • 12% think that their ability to provide high-quality care is being compromised due to the high volume of healthcare professionals leaving the medical profession.
  • 16% report having more administrative tasks which prevent them from providing good levels of care.
  • 16% have suffered from burnout and/or stress in the past six months.
  • 12% think that care is being affected by delays in access to primary care treatment, which can then lead to patients’ conditions deteriorating prematurely.
  • 7% of respondents thought that payment barriers stop them from being able to provide the basic care that economically disadvantaged patients require.
  • 8% of participants feel like the economic crisis has had very little, or no impact on the level of quality care available.

We also offered an open-ended answer option, giving respondents the opportunity to expand on their answers. This gives us deeper insight into how the economic crisis affects their day-to-day work and patient care. Read a summary of their responses below.

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Quality of care during economic crisis

Insight Summary: The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Quality Care Delivery

Economic crises cause sudden decreases in disposable income, deplete public financial resources, and reduce the purchasing power of private businesses and public institutions. Consequently, healthcare establishments may need to make restructuring decisions that alter the delivery of care in order to improve efficiencies whilst maintaining their performance during an economic recession. In the US alone, healthcare costs in 2027 are now expected to be $590 billion higher than the pre-COVID estimates.*

Globally, inflation and rising costs challenge healthcare organisations’ ability to provide affordable, accessible, and high-quality healthcare services that meet consumers’ expectations. Healthcare systems are under considerable pressure to reduce costs without compromising on quality, which is not likely to be sustainable in the long term.

In terms of the impact on individuals, the economic crisis may lead to salary deductions, downsizing, or loss of insurance coverage which can have a significant impact on mental wellness and can reduce access to healthcare.

These challenges were all highlighted by our panel members in January’s M3 Pulse survey. 166 HCP respondents took the time to share their personal experiences of the impact of the economic crisis. Much of the feedback shared showed signs of anguish, stress, and frustration about the current healthcare situation, and economic recession. The most commonly mentioned themes included:

1. Staff shortages and heavy workloads

The majority of respondents mentioned staff shortages, recruitment of unqualified staff, increasingly long patient waiting lists, and backlogs that remain after the COVID-19 disruption, causing extremely heavy workloads. These cause stress, fatigue, and burnout which prevents respondents from being able to give patients the attention and level of care they would like to. A few reported that they already left the profession due to the pressure they were under.

2. Inadequate compensation

The second most mentioned issue was inadequate compensation, leaving healthcare professionals with personal economic challenges as the cost of living is soaring. This causes them to feel undervalued, demotivated, and stressed, with some of them considering leaving the medical profession as they are unable to sustain their lifestyle and mental health.

According to Definite Healthcare Report in 2022, over 230,000 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other clinicians left their jobs in the US in 2021. With increasing economic pressures, these numbers may increase over the next few years.

3. Drug and supply shortages

At least 20% of the open-ended responses mentioned shortages of drugs and other medical supplies which has a significant impact on their ability to adequately care for their patients.

According to the FDA drug shortage report, there are currently 122 drugs with supply issues, including some antibiotics, cancer therapies, and anaesthetic drugs.

4. National funds and lower reimbursements

A number of respondents mentioned that cuts in national healthcare funds and reimbursements mean that they need to restrict certain resources for patients to be able to sustain their margins, which affects healthcare service delivery and quality of care.

In the EU, national budgets allocated to healthcare are fixed annually by member states, but with sharply increasing costs linked to the current energy crisis, this model is no longer seen as sustainable, which threatens the quality of medical services and risks limiting patient access to care.

5. A focus on profitable healthcare

Some respondents report feeling pressured to “do more with less”. They claim that too much focus is placed on profitability in times of economic crisis rather than implementing new policies prioritising long-term solutions and quality care. Due to staff shortages, cost reductions, and fewer resources, those left working have more patients to care for, more administrative tasks, and more responsibilities. These respondents mentioned that they feel that the healthcare system is no longer working efficiently and that radical change is required to move away from policies that drive “profitability over quality care”.

6. Insurance providers are getting stricter

Some respondents, mainly in the US, mentioned that more patients are struggling to afford essential medications and healthcare services as insurance providers are becoming stricter in approving healthcare coverage. As a result, healthcare providers feel increasingly unable to provide necessary care for patients who can´t afford to access certain healthcare services.

Quality of care and healthcare service delivery during economic crisis

How is the economic crisis affecting healthcare service delivery and your work as a healthcare provider? Leave a comment below. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Take part in our next survey to share your opinions with our global community. Keep an eye out for the M3 Pulse on your personal dashboard to participate.

To access our monthly Pulse surveys and paid healthcare market research opportunities you’ll need to register to join the M3 panel. Discover available studies for your medical specialty here.

You may also want to continue reading about other trending healthcare topics and recent results from other M3 Pulse surveys. Here are our top three recommendations for you:

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