Background: The covid-19 pandemic has affected the health insurance industry in numerous ways.
Objective: The present study aimed to examine the impacts of the covid-19 on the referral times of insurance policyholders to hospitals and diagnostic centers throughout the country.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive study conducted on the data collected from a private insurance company. The statistical population included all insured individuals covered by the insurer in 31 provinces throughout the country who have used the services provided in hospitals and other diagnostic centers from March 21, 2019 to September 21, 2019 (1,699,930 insured people), considered as the pre-covid-19 incidence period, and from March 20, 2020 to September 20, 2020 (1,862,657 insured people), as the post-covid-19 incidence period. Data were analyzed using the SPSS and GIS statistical software.
Results: In the 2019 half-year, 10,416,591 medical expense records have been filed in the country, which decreased by 17.1% in the same period in 2020 to 8,633,613 records. The average referral times in the pre-covid-19 period was 7.02, which decreased by 32.9% during the post-covid-19 period, falling to 4.71.
Conclusion: The overall frequency of referrals to receive all services covered by the insurer, including visits, medicine, hospital services (general surgeries), and laboratory services in the post-covid-19 period decreased significantly, compared to a similar period in the previous year. It seems that in many different provinces, non-emergency patients avoided referring to healthcare centers and unnecessary visits to medical centers. Moreover, the number of general surgeries decreased because of the therapists’ cautiousness and the changing behaviors of the patients, making diagnostic and medical services more real.
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