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September 4, 2020

SCAI Reports Results of Survey on Public Fear of COVID-19 Versus Cardiovascular Emergencies

September 4, 2020—In a letter to members, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention President Cindy L. Grines, MD, announced the findings of a national survey conducted in May 2020 to determine the fears and concerns of Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic when experiencing a medical emergency such as heart attack or stroke. Dr. Grines noted that there has been concern about the enormous decline in patients seeking care.

According to Dr. Grines, the online survey included 1,068 respondents from a nationally representative sample of people aged ≥ 30 years. The confidence level for the survey was 95% with a margin of error of ± 3.06.

The quantitative study contained 17 multiple-choice questions. Six questions were used for demographics consisting of age, gender, ethnicity, state of residency, previous heart attack, and previous stroke. Eleven questions looked for insights regarding fears and perceptions related to seeking treatment for heart attack symptoms.

The answers demonstrated that fear of COVID-19 is keeping patients out of the hospital. As outlined by Dr. Grines, the survey found:

  • Fear of contracting COVID-19 in a hospital is a barrier to seeking care even when faced with a serious medical emergency like heart attack or stroke
  • 61% of respondents think they are either somewhat likely or very likely to acquire COVID-19 in a hospital
  • Half of respondents are more afraid of contracting COVID-19 than experiencing a heart attack or stroke
  • 57% of respondents say that fear of contracting COVID-19 could keep them from seeking medical attention in a hospital, even for urgent medical issues like heart attack symptoms
  • When asked if they were more afraid of contracting COVID-19, experiencing a heart attack, or experiencing a stroke, twice as many people aged > 60 years are more afraid of contracting COVID-19 (52%) than they are of experiencing a heart attack (23%) or stroke (25%)
  • As states start to open up, 36% of respondents consider going to the hospital to be one of the riskiest behaviors to take part in compared to going to a hair salon (27%) or going to the beach (16%)
  • 89% of respondents said they would need one or more of the following to feel that it is safe to go to the hospital in the next 6 months:
    • Know that enough personal protective equipment is available to health care workers and patients
    • Know COVID-19 cases are treated in separate units with separate doctors
    • See a decrease in COVID-19 cases in their area
    • A vaccine is available for COVID-19

Additionally, there was a gap between what Americans say compared with actual behaviors. For example, 88% of respondents said they would call 911 or visit a hospital if experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke; however, this runs counter to what doctors are experiencing in hospitals. Although physicians are beginning to see ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction cases return to the hospital, there is still a need for greater awareness of the safety and preparedness of hospitals to handle non–COVID-19 related health emergencies.

A limitation of the study is that the participants were in the United States; therefore, the results may not be transferable to other populations due to varying cultural differences. Also, the survey was distributed online; consequently, it may not be representative of people who do not have an internet connection.

According to Dr. Grines, “The results from the survey profoundly displayed that Americans need to be reassured that proper precautions and protocols are in place to keep them safe from COVID-19 and make them feel comfortable to go into the hospital and visit their doctors.”

To this end, SCAI initiated the Seconds Still Count patient awareness campaign. The campaign has aimed to  reach at-risk individuals and families while  they watch local news, connect on social media, and stream entertainment with the message that time to treatment is still the best way to secure  the best possible outcome after a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Grines urged members to spread the word to patients, colleagues, and the broader hospital community. SCAI has also developed a hospital toolkit complete with infographics, social media content, fact sheets, and other turnkey communications.

Additionally, the SCAI COVID-19 Resource Center includes societal recommendations, care for acute myocardial infarction patients, and access to surveys, registries, and timely news. SCAI is also launching a webinar series about how to best serve patients and develop a strategic, consistent approach to cardiovascular care across health systems.

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