Impact of Medical Treatment Delays and Disruptions Caused by COVID

COVID-19 changed the world and according to the experts, it’s not over yet. The World Health Organization has reported  513,955,910 confirmed COVID cases resulting in 6,249,700 deaths to date. Is the worst over or is it yet to come?

From individuals delaying doctor visits to hospitals and surgical centers refusing to conduct “elective surgeries”, warning came early as predictions were made that the disruptions and delays would cause monumental problems. Now, we are seeing the effects.

Diabetes Delays and New Cases

Diabetes is the most prevalent disease in the world. Researchers at RUSH University Medical Center in Maryland, USA are studying the ways in which COVID impacted those who already had diabetes and those who got it during the pandemic. Data is being used to better understand how COVID-19 and diabetes are connected and why those with diabetes are affected by Coronavirus differently than those without it.

Not only are those with diabetes at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, they are more likely to have serious complications, according the RUSH study. It is also being investigated the possibility that individuals who have had COVID are more likely to contract diabetes.

During the pandemic, diabetic patients were often forced to go longer in between checkups that usual. Telehealth and remote monitoring were employed where possible to help curb the implications. Still, there were a multitude of challenges – especially in remote areas of the world where such methods are not available.

What does the future hold for those who suffer from diabetes now that the pandemic has subsided? Information in PubMed suggests that the experts fear delays in being diagnosed with prediabetes as well as dietary and lifestyle changes, and other factors that occurred during the COVID outbreak will lead to more people getting diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.

Cancer Treatment Delays

A Canadian and United Kingdom-led study published in the British Medical Journal was conducted geared at estimating the long‐term impacts cancer care disruptions played during the pandemic. Timely treatment is the saving grace where cancer is concerned. By catching it early and getting right into treatment, lives are saved. But what happens when treatment isn’t hasty? Just a four-week delay has been proven to result in a 10% increased death risk, according the research.

The overall goal is to pump up diagnosis and cancer care to make up for the disruptions in order to bring the numbers down from 10%. If the goal is met, research indicates only a 2% increase in cancer deaths will occur in Canada from 2020 to 2030 due to the issues caused by COVID such as postponed and delayed treatments, lag in diagnoses, and other complications. Still, the life years lost will reach 355 172.

In order to attain the increased cancer treatment and early diagnosis in Canada and around the world, things will need to change dramatically. Individuals still fear going to crowded places, like emergency rooms and hospitals, where sick people gather. In addition, not all doctor offices, clinics, and hospitals are back to normal. Getting scans, magnetic resonance, and diagnostic tests is not as easy as it used to be and even biopsies are often considered “elective surgeries”.

Another interference was in acquiring cancer treatment equipment, surgical tools, and even medicine since the supply chain was in chaos. If not for being able to rely on steadfast supplies from companies like Canadian-based, the medical field would have no doubt been in even more trouble.

Were Delays Heartless?

A comprehensive study conducted by the Department of Surgery at Michigan Medicine revealed that many heart patients were affected by the pandemic. Mary Brynes, Ph.D. called patients six weeks into the outbreak and what she found was to be expected. Many didn’t keep appointments because they were afraid of catching COVID. Others involuntarily had their “non-essential” medical procedures postponed. Dr. Brynes heard countless stories of patients living on prayer and hope.

Now on the heels of the pandemic, there are still struggles. Many patients suffer from extreme anxiety due to their past experiences and concern about the possibility of future ones. Stress is a killer where heart issues are concerned. Unfortunately, there were patients who did not make it through the trying times either because they weren’t able to be treated or were too afraid to go to treatment or for other COVID-related reasons. Others had conditions that worsened due to complications of COVID itself or situations caused by COVID.

c system that would be operational even in the event of another pandemic, but also support systems to ensure the well-being of heart patients during a crisis and afterwards.

Consequences of Medical Supply Chain Breakdown

Lifesaving medical devices and equipment were hard to come by during the pandemic and even afterwards. In a Forbes article on the damage done by disruption of medical supplies, it was determined that while fill-rates used to be around 98%, they are now about 50%. The troubled statistics are not only for medical devices and equipment but also for Asian supplies such as medicine, chemotherapy chemicals, and nutritional items, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research and PubMed.

The toll that was taken for the lack of supplies is continuing to be revealed. The magnitude may never be fully known. What we do know is that when preventative, diagnostic, or ongoing medical care is disrupted, for any reason, the outcome isn’t good. Covid left scars that are yet to be completely disclosed.

As the Future Unfolds

More and more it’s being realized that it isn’t just the inconvenience of delayed and disruptions in the medical realm that is the main concern, it’s the repercussions that are presented after the fact. No one knows how extensive the after-effect consequences will be and how long they will last.

It is true that Coronavirus has negatively impacted healthcare tremendously. The best recourse appears to be not just a defensive plan but a simultaneous offensive plan as well.