Hospitalizations Increasing Due To Delayed Medical Care

Delaying medical care has become a significant issue since the start of the COVID pandemic. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a study showing that 48% of Americans delayed care for a medical condition due to the pandemic.

Although the full implications of these decisions are not yet clear, Ashley Minaei, Program Manager for the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program at the Dept. of Health and Social Services (DHSS), says they are seeing an increase in hospitalizations for chronic conditions.

The concern there is people aren’t getting screened, they’re not getting diagnosed, which means that they’re waiting until things advance to a more kind of critical stage before they’re getting [a] diagnosis and treatment.

Alongside the increase in hospitalizations, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, says there has been an increased mortality rate among individuals with specific conditions.

We did see an increase in mortality from neoplastic diseases, cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease during 2020.

 

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Matthew Bobo, Immunization Program Manager for the State of Alaska, saw a decline in routine childhood vaccinations at the start of the pandemic but noted they have since rebounded close to pre-pandemic levels.

We saw a drop, kind of when the pandemic first started…and then we did see it go back up…We have pretty much stayed at our normal average in terms of immunization coverage.

Vaccination distribution systems in Alaska contributed to this rapid recovery. Bobo said distribution happens at the community level, so individuals don’t have to travel far to receive vaccinations.

The opposite happens for preventative services. Individuals often need to travel significant distances to receive care. Zink said that returning home from some areas during the peak of the pandemic could take up to six weeks due to 14-day quarantines in multiple communities along the route.

The KFF report indicated most people didn’t notice a worsening of their condition after delaying care. Minaei said people could be doing better managing their conditions at home but she also points out that many chronic conditions often go unnoticed.

Heart disease and diabetes…we call them silent killers for a reason. They kind of grew under the surface.