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Patients Deferring Lifesaving Care During Pandemic

A new analysis of data from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found patient visits are declining for select conditions for which patients would normally seek care, including heart attacks and strokes, following postponement or cancellation of nonessential procedures.

The analysis looked at the number of patient visits between March and April in comparison to the number of visits during January and February during 2020, while also using data from 2019 as a control, and revealed:

  • Patient visits for heart attack symptoms decreased by 33 percent
  • Patient visits for stroke symptoms decreased by 58 percent
  • Breast and blood cancer referral visits decreased by two-thirds

Many causes are considered to exist behind the sudden decrease, including a possibility of lowered incidents due to lifestyle changes during the quarantine. However, the study points to the main cause of the decline stemming from fear of contagion, causing many patients to defer lifesaving care.

Here in Pennsylvania, hospitals continue to experience a decline inpatient visits to the emergency department since the pandemic began. After two months of deferred procedures, some scheduled surgeries and tests are slowly returning in areas less impacted by COVID-19. The impacts of cancellation of non-urgent surgeries, limited access to outpatient services, and lower inpatient stays have resulted in a projected loss of 10 billion dollars to Pennsylvania hospitals by year-end.

For more information contact Rob Shipp, vice president, quality and population health.


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