August 7, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 17: COVID-19 is hitting Indiana nonprofits hard -- Plus non-COVID-19 health care visits declined dramatically

The effects of COVID-19 have been felt far and wide across the globe and one area hit particularly hard is nonprofits. In fact, a report from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University found more than half of Indiana’s nonprofit organizations have cut or reduced programs since the pandemic hit the state in March, with revenues also negatively affected. The report is based on a survey of 512 Indiana nonprofits taken in May 2020 about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations. According to the report, 60 percent of the organizations have curtailed or suspended programs and 70 percent operate other ongoing programs with limited or reduced capacity. Additionally, 69 percent have moved programs to online or phone platforms, although they also report widespread technology needs by their clients or for their own operations. The pandemic has also created major revenue shortfalls for a majority of Indiana nonprofits, with 71 percent of those surveyed reporting that they have lost revenues since March 1 due to the crisis. Finally, nonprofit staff are facing significant challenges from a variety of sources, including the need to retool programs and compensate for absent volunteers. While job losses appear to have been modest so far, that may change if revenue shortfalls continue. Researchers pointed out that the study demonstrates that Indiana communities are being hit by a severely weakened safety net because of the pandemic, just as the need for services is growing. The future of not-for-profits, depends on how the pandemic plays out, according to researchers. If the size of gatherings is restricted again, even more programs might need to be cut, leaving many without much needed resources.

In other news, a new study by IU researchers indicates that use of non-COVID-19 health care has declined since the start of the pandemic, which may have important implications for people’s current and future health. From the start, the pandemic has forced the U.S. health care system to focus on providing life-saving care for COVID-19 patients. But that focus has resulted in many health care systems, and patients, deferring non-COVID-related health care. To gain a better view of how different state policies affected non-COVID-19 outpatient health care, IU researchers examined data from a nationwide electronic health care records system covering more than 35 million patients and providing information on health care use from January 2019 through June 30, 2020. They focused on outpatient visits, outpatient procedures and laboratory tests for non-COVID-19 care. Researchers found that overall, health care visits declined about 40 percent during the first six weeks of the pandemic. State policies ordering people to stay at home and closing non-essential businesses played a substantial role, reducing outpatient visits by about 15 percent in the first two weeks of the shutdown. However, the negative impact varied by type of care, according to the study. Visits associated with heart disease declined dramatically, as did outpatient visits for diabetes and various cancers. But the study found that mental health outpatient visits declined far less than the other care categories studied, leaving researchers to conclude that telemedicine delivering mental health services may have mitigated the decline in mental health care visits. While outpatient visits rebounded substantially following re-openings, the researchers note that care visits still remain below the pre-epidemic levels in most cases. Understanding these patterns is important, they say, to prepare our health care system to address health consequences in the future that will be caused by the shortfalls in health care use during this era.