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Reduction in Emergency Department Presentations in a Regional Health System during the Covid-19 Pandemic

  • Author(s): Mann, Edana;
  • Swedien, Daniel;
  • Hansen, Jonathan;
  • Peterson, Susan;
  • Saheed, Mustapha;
  • Klein, Eili;
  • Munjuluru, Ajit;
  • Scheulen, Jim;
  • Kelen, Gabor
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction: Nationally, there has been more than a 40% decrease in Emergency Department (ED) patient volume during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, with reports of decreases in presentations of time-sensitive acute illnesses. We analyzed ED clinical presentations in a Maryland/District of Columbia regional hospital system while health mitigation measures were instituted.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational cohort study of all adult ED patients presenting to five Johns Hopkins Health System (JHHS) hospitals comparing visits from March 16 through May 15, in 2019 and 2020. We analyzed de-identified demographic information, clinical conditions, and ICD-10 diagnosis codes for year-over-year comparisons.

Results: There were 36.7% fewer JHHS ED visits in 2020 compared to 2019 (43,088 vs. 27,293, P<.001). Patients 75+ had the greatest decline in visits (-44.00%, P<.001). Both genders had significant decreases in volume (-41.9%, P<.001 females vs -30.6%, P<.001 males). Influenza like illness (ILI) symptoms increased year-over-year including fever (640 to 1253, 95.8%, P<.001) and shortness of breath (2504 to 2726, 8.9%, P=.002). ICD-10 diagnoses for a number of time-sensitive illnesses decreased including deep vein thrombosis (101 to 39, -61%, P<.001), acute myocardial infarction (157 to 105, -33%, P=.002), gastrointestinal bleeding (290 to 179, -38.3%, P<.001), and strokes (284 to 234, -17.6%, P=0.03).

Conclusion: ED visits declined significantly among JHHS hospitals despite offsetting increases in ILI complaints. Decreases in presentations of time-sensitive illnesses were of particular concern. Efforts should be taken to inform patients that EDs are safe, otherwise preventable morbidity and mortality will remain a problem.

 

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