Use of Emergency Departments Plummets During COVID-19

A new commentary highlights the dramatic decline in emergency department visits during the COVID-19 pandemic and what could be causing the decrease.

9:59 AM

Author | Kylie Urban

stethoscope drawing
Image by Stephanie King.

In a new commentary piece, published in JAMA Health Forum, two health researchers describe the decrease in emergency department use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While data are still being collected and reviewed, we know there was a dramatic drop in patients seeking care in emergency departments during March and April 2020," says Keith Kocher, M.D., MPH, an associate professor of emergency medicine and learning health sciences at Michigan Medicine and a member of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Kocher, along with Michelle Macy, M.D., M.S., of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, highlight in the commentary major reasons for the decline and their implications, including emergency department demand being related to patients' physical and social environments.

"Social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks in public, all help lower the transmission of viruses and infectious illnesses, which are often reasons why patients, especially children, seek emergency care," Macy says.

In addition, Kocher and Macy say the epidemiology of injuries changed during the pandemic, such as fewer motor vehicle accidents occurring due to less travel, and health care administration and policy decisions affected patients' ability to obtain care. For example, cancellations of scheduled procedures and expansion of telehealth appointments kept patients from physically going to a hospital for care.

They also note that the pandemic altered when and how quickly patients turn to the emergency department for urgent care needs.

"This is truly tragic because if someone is experiencing concerning symptoms, we want them to come in as quickly as possible for care," Kocher says. "Our emergency department is safe and ready to care for you."

Commentary cited: "Emergency Department Patients in the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Have We Learned?," JAMA Health Forum.


More Articles About: Lab Notes covid-19 Emergency & Trauma Care Health Care Delivery, Policy, and Economics infectious disease
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

This article is from the Health Lab digital publication.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

MichMedmedia@med.umich.edu

734-764-2220

Newsletter

Get a weekly digest of medical research and innovation, straight to your inbox.

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories stethoscope drawing
Health Lab
New Report Details Strategies for COVID-19 Critical Care Surge
A new report from Michigan Medicine researchers and the RAND Corporation offers evidence-based strategies for expanding critical care resources for COVID-19 patients.
pediatrician talking with mother at exam questions
Health Lab
Checklist for the checkup: Some parents may not be making the most of well child visits
While many parents keep recommended well visits with their child’s primary provider, some may consider more proactive steps to make checkups as productive as possible
colorful pills falling in a line
Health Lab
For COVID-19, do supplements help?
An expert cautions about becoming too enamored with pills.
Microscope
Health Lab
Studying a protein modification process in worms provides potential insights for human health
Too much of this post-translational modification impacted multiple body systems
crowded blurred people walking in city streets
Health Lab
How Americans learned science in a hurry during a pandemic
People were plunged into the issue of COVID-19
woman doctor scrubs sad ashamed lab note
Health Lab
Study in residents shows high prevalence of sexual harassment, yet low reporting rates
Research reveals that one in four women among internal medicine residents experiences sexual harassment, but far fewer go on to report it.