A new analysis from the CDC this week confirmed what we have been hearing anecdotally from health systems for several weeks—as the coronavirus lockdown took hold, there was a precipitous drop in visits to hospital emergency departments. According to the study, visits were down by 42 percent in the month of April compared to the previous year, and despite a rebound in May, were still 26 percent lower than a year ago. Visits in the Northeast dropped the most, as did those among women, and children under 14.
Although visits for minor ailments and symptoms declined the most, even more disconcerting was the drop in visits for chest pain, echoing the concern we’ve heard in many parts of the country that many patients may have suffered minor heart attacks without being treated, or may have waited to be seen until significant damage had been done.
As non-emergent visits have begun to return to many facilities, we continue to hear that emergency department and urgent care volume remains relatively low.
Survey data indicate that patients are fearful of becoming infected with coronavirus if they visit healthcare facilities—especially, it seems, ones where they’ll be forced to wait.
While many providers are investing in messaging campaigns to assure patients it’s safe to return, this nightmarish first-person account by one healthcare insider provides a useful cautionary tale.
Visiting a surgeon for a pre-op consult, she found the experience of visiting a COVID-era hospital downright dystopian. Simply touting safety precautions by itself won’t make patients more comfortable—they’ll need to see and feel that measures are in place to make time spent in a care setting as efficient and reassuring as possible. Otherwise, like the insider in question, they’ll take their business elsewhere. There’s work to be done.