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Miles White

Health-Care Companies Report Slowdown in Patient Visits

The spike late last year in doctor and hospital visits apparently lasted as long as the flu.After years of decelerating health-care usage--linked to economic problems in the U.S. and Europe--the recent uptick increased optimism that a corner was being turned. The upswing was tied to more visits to doctors' offices during a nasty influenza season in late 2012 and early 2013, as well as signs of a rebound in certain procedures using medical devices.But more recently, health-care providers and makers of medical products say patient utilization has slowed down."While we believe that overall healthcare utilization trends continue to show signs of stabilization, the modest positive increases we saw in [late 2012] do not appear to have persisted," Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Chief Financial Officer Dominic Caruso said last week. "And at this point, we are not anticipating a meaningful market acceleration this year."The viewpoint from the world's largest health-care company by sales has been echoe...

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