As the threat of coronavirus increased in March, hospitals, healthcare systems and private practices drastically reduced inpatient and non-emergency services to prepare for the influx of patients with COVID-19. A survey released Wednesday reveals that the void in health care centers may also reflect the choices patients have made to postpone care.
O Kaiser Family Foundation Research found that 48% of Americans said that they or a family member ignored or delayed medical care because of the pandemic and 11% of them said that the person's condition worsened as a result of the delay in care.
Medical groups have noted a sharp drop in emergency patients across the country. Some, including the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Assn., Have publicly urged health-conscious people to seek care.
Dr. William Jaquispresident of American College of Emergency Physicians, said he was uncomfortable with the stories he heard about people who are delaying care, including patients who have suffered heart attacks or strokes at home. He urged people not to jump into the emergency room and pointed out the many safety precautions that hospitals are taking to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
"Don't stay at home and have a bad result," said Jaquis. "We are certainly there and in many ways very safe and, especially with low volumes in some places, we can see people quickly. Come in, please.
(Henry J. Kaiser family foundation)
According to the survey, almost 7 in 10 of those who missed seeing a medical professional expect to receive care in the next three months.
Although a significant number of adults say they delayed care, 86% of adults said their physical health "has remained the same" since the outbreak in the United States began.
Almost 40% of Americans, however, said that coronavirus-related stress negatively affected their mental health. Women were more likely than men to say that the coronavirus had a negative impact on their mental health, and those who live in urban and suburban areas are more likely to say that than those who live in rural areas. Nearly half of people living in homes that have suffered loss of income or employment said the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health.
The survey also reports some of the economic consequences of the pandemic. It was found that about 3 in 10 adults had problems paying household expenses, with 13% reporting difficulty paying for food and 11% having problems with medical bills. Almost 1 in 4 adults said that, next year, they or a family member would likely turn to Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income residents.
Medicaid continues to show strong support among Americans. About three-quarters said they would oppose their states' efforts to cut the program as part of reducing costs.
The survey was conducted from May 13 to 18 among 1,189 adults. The sampling error margin is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the complete sample.
Lawrence writes to Kaiser Health News, an independent editing program from the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.