A recent Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) survey found nearly 40 percent of Americans still do not feel safe going to the doctor's office while coronavirus is still a risk. Survey respondents also said they are more afraid of catching the virus than they are of a heart attack or stroke, which may delay critical treatment. Getty Images
January 18, 2021 — According to a new national survey released Jan. 13 by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), nearly 40 percent of Americans still do not feel safe going to the doctor's office while coronavirus (COVID-19) is still a risk. As the United States approaches the one-year mark of the ongoing pandemic, these results underscore concerns that many Americans are not maintaining their overall health through routine care due to fears of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).
This new data comes at an important time when there has been a more than 20 percent decrease in primary care visits since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (JAMA), and a nearly 40 percent drop in patients being treated for a life threatening cardiac event known as a STEMI (JACC). In fact, SCAI's nationally representative survey, conducted with DEFINITION6, found more than 30 percent of Americans have not had a routine check-up with their doctor since the pandemic began and more than half would be uncomfortable scheduling a medical procedure while COVID-19 is still a risk. More than 45 percent of African American and Latinx adult respondents would be uncomfortable going to the doctor's office, compared to only 25 percent of the general population.
"COVID-19 has changed the healthcare landscape as we know it, with consequences that will reverberate potentially for years to come. One challenge we can help prevent today is the impact of chronic disease among individuals who have fallen out of care due to fear of the virus," said Cindy Grines, M.D., MSCAI, SCAI president, and chief scientific officer, Northside Cardiovascular Institute in Atlanta. "Cardiac care can't wait for a time without COVID-19. We've seen an increase in medical emergencies like heart attacks and stroke, and the impact of cardiac patients delaying treatment for progressive heart conditions like aortic stenosis and atrial fibrillation, which can result in more complications and time spent in the hospital. For the millions of patients with heart disease, don't let fear stand in the way of better outcomes and quality of life."
Chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes are known to disproportionately impact minority populations. When it comes to heart health, African American adults ages 18-49 are two times as likely to die from heart disease than whites (CDC). Yet, African American and Latinx adults feel less safe going to the doctor's office during the ongoing pandemic compared to the general population. Only 25 percent of African American adults and 29 percent of Latinx respondents currently feel comfortable scheduling a medical procedure, compared to 48 percent of the general population.
"Although COVID-19 is still a risk, we cannot let fear cause patients with heart disease to pause treatment for their condition or ignore other aspects of their health," said Kirk N. Garratt, M.D., MSc, MSCAI, medical director, Center for Heart and Vascular Health, ChristianaCare in Newark, Del., and SCAI past president. "Now more than ever, it is crucial to stay in care: keep regular check-ups on the calendar, take advantage of telemedicine when available, get the COVID-19 vaccine, and go through with possibly life-saving procedures. Remember, heart disease isn't in quarantine – when it comes to your health, seconds still count."
To help combat these fears, SCAI is educating and empowering individuals to stay in care, especially when it comes to managing their heart health. The Seconds Still Count Campaign is working to help Americans remember the signs of a heart attack or stroke and remind people to continue consistent treatment and maintenance for overall health.
Key Survey Highlights on Patient Concerns Over COVID
• Nearly 40 percent of Americans do not feel safe going to a doctor's office during COVID-19.
• More than 30 percent of Americans have not had a routine check-up with their doctor since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
• More than half (51 percent) of people do not feel comfortable scheduling a medical procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Only 25 percent of Black/African Americans and 29 percent of Latinos would be comfortable scheduling a medical procedure.
• Only 33 percent of Black and African Americans and 34 percent of Latinx respondents would be comfortable going to the hospital for an emergency while COVID-19 is still a risk, compared to 58 percent of the general population.
• More people are afraid of contracting COVID-19 (58 percent) than having a heart attack or stroke (42 percent).
Seconds Still Count Checklist
SCAI is urging patients to stay in care if they are due for an annual visit, preventative screening or meeting with specialist. SCAI suggests the following for keeping up with doctor visits amid the COVID pandemic:
• Schedule in-person or telehealth visits to stay connected.
• Patients with chronic illnesses, particularly cardiovascular disease, should continue to regularly communicate with their physician to schedule check-ups and monitor ongoing symptoms.
• Know your symptoms that could signal a major medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke.
• Seconds Still Count when it comes to survival. Visit secondscount.org to learn more.
About the SCAI Seconds Still Count Survey
SCAI's Seconds Still Count fielded three surveys to better understand perceptions from the general population, the Latinx population and the Black/African American population.
• General Population: This survey included 1,005 responses from a nationally representative sample over age 18. The confidence level for the survey is 95 percent with a margin of error of ±3.09.
• Latinx Population: This survey included 1,023 responses from a sample of Latinx respondents using census data for age and sex balancing. All respondents are over age 18. The confidence level for the survey is 95 percent with a margin of error of ±3.06.
• Black/African American Population: This survey included 1,041 responses from a sample of Black/African American respondents using census data for age and sex balancing. All respondents are over age 18. The confidence level for the survey is 95 percent with a margin of error of ±3.04.
About the SCAI Seconds Still Count Campaign
Seconds Still Count is part of SCAI's ongoing efforts to promote healthy hearts, one family at a time. In 2020, with the onset of COVID-19, SCAI evolved its Seconds Count Campaign to remind the public that fear of the virus should not stop people from seeking treatment for heart attack or stroke. The campaign works to raise awareness of cardiovascular health and wellness, including prevention, management and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and ensure patients receive care they need for ongoing health issues and acute medical emergencies. When patients and their families are educated about cardiovascular health, they are better prepared to navigate the medical system and actively participate in their care.
For more information: secondscount.org/
VIDEO: Where Have all the STEMI Cases Gone Amid COVID-19? — Interview with Thomas Maddox, M.D.
Rapid Drop in Heart Attacks and Stroke at Hospitals Concerns ACC
VIDEO: Patients Fear COVID More than Heart Attacks — Interview with Cindy Grines, M.D.
SCAI Study Shows COVID Fears Continue to Cause Americans to Avoid Doctor Visits
Find more cardiology related COVID content
1. G. Caleb Alexander, Matthew Tajanlangit, James Heyward, et al. Use and Content of Primary Care Office-Based vs Telemedicine Care Visits During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the U.S. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(10):e2021476. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.21476.
2. Santiago Garcia, Mazen S. Albaghdadi, Perwaiz M. Meraj, et al. Reduction in ST-Segment Elevation Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Activations in the United States During COVID-19 Pandemic. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Jun, 75 (22) 2871–2872.
3. African American Health, Creating equal opportunities for health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aahealth/index.html.