1:10 US adults avoiding urgent or emergency medical care because of Covid concerns

More than 1 in 10 US adults reported having avoided urgent or emergency medical care, while over 31 per cent avoided routine medical care, because of concerns over COVID-19, according to a report appearing in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report produced by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These findings represent the fourth report produced through The COVID-19 Outbreak Public Evaluation (COPE) Initiative, a collaborative effort launched in late March by researchers at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Austin Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Australian and US residents.

According to the report’s lead author Mark Czeisler, a Fulbright Scholar who is undertaking his graduate studies with the Turner Institute of Brain and Mental Health, emergency or urgent care was most commonly delayed or avoided by particular groups including:

  • Unpaid caregivers for adults
  • People with two or more underlying medical conditions known to increase risk for severe COVID-19
  • People with health insurance compared to those without
  • Non-Hispanic Black adults
  • Hispanic or Latino adults
  • Young adults aged 18-24 years compared to adults aged 25 years or older
  • Persons with disabilities

The survey was administered during June 24 and 30 and surveyed 5412 adults from all 50 states and representative of the US population by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

The study found that 41 percent of US adults had delayed or avoided medical care during the pandemic, with 12 percent avoiding urgent or emergency care that required immediate medical attention. According to Mr Czeisler, these findings align with reported declines in overall hospital admissions during the pandemic, as well as emergency department visits for heart attack, stroke and diabetic medical emergencies.

“These data suggest delay or avoidance of medical care due to concerns about COVID-19 is common among US adults, and highlight the urgent need to improve care seeking and delivery approaches to ensure individuals safely seek timely medical care,” he said.

The authors raise concerns that avoidance of care for chronic conditions, immunisations or even the early detection of potentially more serious conditions may lead to even greater numbers of death and illness, and that knowing those groups most likely avoiding care – to create targeted delivery of healthcare and design communication strategies to reach these groups – may alleviate this increase.