Why do we put off going to the doctor? – AbbVie investigates

AbbVie, a global biopharmaceutical company, is releasing new open-data to help further understanding around why individuals are not engaging with their health and to encourage the development of healthcare innovation which may help alleviate pressure on the NHS.

The release of the new data comes at a time when an estimated 12 million GP appointments are missed each year in England and 1 in 4 women skip routine cervical smear tests for reasons including embarrassment.

An initial analysis of the open-data, gathered from over 4,000 participants in the UK, has been released by AbbVie in a new report entitled: ‘An exploration into the Fear of Finding Out’.

Key findings from the analysis by data scientists at Satalia, who have been collaborating with AbbVie on the project, include:

• Anxiety around being examined is the most common reason for avoiding medical advice with a quarter (25%) of participants reporting that they have delayed seeing a doctor due to this concern
• Over a fifth (22%) of people have anxiety about the treatment that might be required
• Over a fifth (22%) are worried about the impact a diagnosis may have on family members
• A proportion of participants (18%) stated that they have delayed a medical appointment because they were worried they might be pressured to change their lifestyle

Commenting on the findings, Professor Sir Muir Gray, said: “We need to clarify the
relationship between citizens and the NHS. Publicity is given to the small proportion of
citizens who misuse the services offered, much less to the people who underuse the service, often because of the fear of finding out or fear of making unnecessary use of the NHS’s scarce resources. To solve or reduce this problem we need to treat citizens like adults and with the power of the internet give them their own records and access to the knowledge they need to make the best use of the NHS and, at least as important, look after themselves well. Healthcare is what you do for yourself; the NHS delivers professional health services to support that and the relationship between the two needs to become much clearer.”

Gwenan White, Director at AbbVie said: “We hope the open-data released will shed more light on the barriers preventing individuals from the medical care they need, with the concepts of ‘control’ and ‘responsibility’ being particularly prominent.”

Daniel Hulme, CEO of Satalia said: “Through Satalia’s initial analysis of the open-data, we have been able to uncover a number of areas that are ripe for further exploration, for example, people’s perceptions of their own responsibility for their health which in turn, opens up conversations around how people engage with the health system.”