MHQP Confirms Significant Drop-Off in Key Preventive Care Measures During the Pandemic

(May 2022) Alarming declines in cancer screening procedures, routine tests for patients with diabetes, and childhood immunizations recorded 

Data released today by MHQP confirm what many providers and policymakers feared – that preventive care declined during the pandemic, especially for procedures that required patients to visit a clinical setting in person.

See a story about these results on

Every two years, in partnership with the Center for Health Information Analysis (CHIA), MHQP aggregates clinical quality performance results for commercially-insured patients in primary care practices across the Commonwealth based on HEDIS® data provided by five Massachusetts health plans. HEDIS is a comprehensive set of standardized performance measures designed to provide purchasers and consumers with information to reliably compare provider performance.

Most alarming are significant declines from 2018 to 2020 in cancer screenings, routine testing for diabetic patients, and childhood immunizations, as summarized in the following chart:

2018 State Rate 2020 State Rate Change
Colorectal Screening 80.2% 74.6% -5.6%
Breast Cancer Screening 85.2% 81.7% -3.5%
Cervical Cancer Screening 86.6% 85.2% -1.4%
HbA1c Testing (Diabetes Care) 96.1% 90.4% -5.7%
Retinal Eye Exams (Diabetes Care) 75.1% 67.5% -7.6%
Childhood Immunization Status (mumps, measles, rubella) 93.2% 91.3% -1.9%

MHQP estimates that these declines translated into:

  • 35,000 fewer people screened for colon cancer
  • 4,500 fewer women screened for breast cancer
  • 11,700 fewer women screened for cervical cancer
  • 4,200 fewer diabetic patients receiving an HbA1c test
  • 8,000 fewer diabetic patients receiving a retinal eye exam
  • 400 fewer children two years old and under receiving the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine

Unsurprisingly, at the same time that there were significant declines in these preventive care procedures, there were notable increases in many procedures that do not require a face-to-face visit. This was especially true for behavioral health services, which experienced a significant surge in demand during the pandemic and could mostly be accommodated through telephone or video platforms.

“These data clearly show the significant drop in patients receiving preventive screening across the state during the pandemic,” said MHQP CEO and President Barbra Rabson. “We are very concerned that this delay may lead to an increase in patients with advanced stages of cancer and other conditions that should have been detected earlier but weren’t because many patients put off screening visits during the pandemic. All stakeholders – providers, health plans, employers, public health officials and patients – need to use the leverage they have and work together to increase our statewide screening rates, at least to pre-pandemic levels.”

“Providers are working hard to schedule preventive screening procedures, despite the fact that we still have significant workforce challenges and a backlog caused by the pandemic,” said Julita Mir, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Community Care Cooperative and Chair of MHQP’s Physician Council. “We encourage patients to make appointments as soon as they can because preventive care is extremely important.”

Patients can view the data for primary care practices in the state on MHQP’s consumer-facing website,

Share this post