Amid the escalating volume of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, doctors recently noticed something puzzling: the typical volume of patients with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, and other emergent or urgent health problems were no longer seeking care as frequently. As much as we wish that Americans are no longer suffering from these serious conditions, the reality is that these “missing” patients likely did not seek or have adequate access to care.
It’s an interesting (and somewhat frightening) byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic. Although health officials have been successful in keeping hospital inpatient beds and emergency departments open for surges of COVID-19 patients, some Americans who desperately need care are delaying it — or going without it altogether.
This situation is distressing, particularly for the estimated 20 million Americans suffering from limb-threatening conditions, such as peripheral artery disease, that require prompt intervention to prevent lower limb amputation. But the COVID-19 emergency, paired with looming Medicare cuts approved late last year, has created a uniquely troubling situation for Americans who need revascularization procedures — and the providers who care for them.