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Effect of shelter-in-place on emergency department radiology volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic.



The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to significant disruptions in the healthcare system including surges of infected patients exceeding local capacity, closures of primary care offices, and delays of non-emergent medical care. Government-initiated measures to decrease healthcare utilization (i.e., "flattening the curve") have included shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing, which have taken effect across most of the USA. We evaluate the immediate impact of the Public Health Messaging and shelter-in-place mandates on Emergency Department (ED) demand for radiology services.


We analyzed ED radiology volumes from the five University of California health systems during a 2-week time period following the shelter-in-place mandate and compared those volumes with March 2019 and early April 2019 volumes.


ED radiology volumes declined from the 2019 baseline by 32 to 40% (p < 0.001) across the five health systems with a total decrease in volumes across all 5 systems by 35% (p < 0.001). Stratifying by subspecialty, the smallest declines were seen in non-trauma thoracic imaging, which decreased 18% (p value < 0.001), while all other non-trauma studies decreased by 48% (p < 0.001).


Total ED radiology demand may be a marker for public adherence to shelter-in-place mandates, though ED chest radiology demand may increase with an increase in COVID-19 cases.

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