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Public Poll: Emergency Care Concerns Amidst COVID-19

Thursday, May 14, 2020 11:58 AM

new poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians and Morning Consult reveals public concerns around seeking medical care during the current outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and support for federal efforts to protect those on the frontline.

"I think I would say that, while COVID remains a great concern to patients and healthcare providers alike, patients should be reassured that we are taking all the appropriate safety measures to protect patients and staff when they come to the emergency department and the hospital for care," says Ernest Wang, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at NorthShore. 

The data also confirm a worrisome trend across emergency departments of people who are avoiding getting the medical care they need. While it’s important to stay home and follow social distancing guidelines, it’s critical to always know when to go to the emergency department.

"Delay in treatment for emergency conditions can lead to more serious injury to vital organs systems including the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys," says Wang. "Delays in treating infections will make it more difficult to treat and control. These delays can also lead to complications that could be avoided with earlier emergency evaluation and treatment."

Wang offers an example: "If you have a heart attack or stroke and delay evaluation for a day or more, you’re more likely to have complications from a larger injury to the heart muscle or brain tissue." So as Wang outlines it's important to still go to the Emergency Room if you're in pain or unsure of your condition. 

Here EmergencyPhysicians.org provides the stats based on its research: 

The majority are engaging in social distancing and think they could get a mask or a test.

  • Half of the adults (51 percent) believe they could get access to a COVID-19 test, while 64 percent say they have access to a face mask.
  • Four in five adults say they are engaging in social distancing.

The country has angst about seeking medical care outside their homes during a pandemic and are avoiding going to the doctor.

  • Four in five adults (80 percent) say they are concerned about contracting COVID-19 from another patient or visitor if they need to go to the emergency room.
  • Nearly a third of adults (29 percent) have actively delayed or avoided seeking medical care due to concerns about contracting COVID-19.

Despite some emergency departments reporting a drop in patient volume by 50 percent, adults are worried about overstressing the healthcare system and overcrowding hospitals.

  • Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) are worried about wait times and overcrowding.
  • When considering a trip to the emergency department, a strong majority (73 percent) are concerned about overstressing the healthcare system.

People are also worried about not being able to get treated by a physician if they need to get care.

  • Nearly 60 percent (59) are concerned about being turned away from the hospital or doctor’s office, a stronger concern among lower-income adults.
  • Fifty-eight percent are concerned about access to their primary care doctor.

Adults are overwhelmingly supportive of federal action to support emergency physicians and other health care workers on the frontlines.

  • Adults overwhelmingly believe the federal government needs to support efforts to increase access to protective equipment for emergency physicians (97 percent).
  • The vast majority (91 percent) believe that emergency physicians should receive hazard pay.

People are looking to the federal government and insurance companies to protect patients during the pandemic and help bear the cost incurred by the pandemic.

  • Eighty-six percent of adults believe the federal government is responsible for alleviating the financial burden on hospitals during COVID-19.
  • Eighty-two percent believe insurance companies are responsible for alleviating the financial burden on hospitals during COVID-19.

The poll was conducted on April 18-April 20, 2020 among a national sample of 2201 adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. Click the infographic below for a visual representation of this information.