The finding comes in a new report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center released documenting the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Wisconsin’s health care systems.
During the three-month federal suspension of nonemergency care last year, from April 1 to June 30, inpatient activity fell 19 percent. Outpatient surgeries and procedures fell 45 percent. Emergency department visits fell 30 percent.
Canceled or delayed regular care during the pandemic poses significant long-term financial and health effects for hospitals and patients, according to the report.
“While the paper was a retrospective look at what happened during the COVID’s spread in Wisconsin in 2020, there is no doubt that there is a health cost to delayed care,” said WHA Senior Vice President of Finance Brian Potter. “It is well documented, for example, that cancer screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms are very effective in discovering many cancers in the earliest stages of development. Early detection ultimately leads to more and better treatment options and better health outcomes.”
The reopening phase took place between July 1 and Sept. 30 when hospitals were able to continue non-emergency care. But during the COVID-19 case surge from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, the majority of statewide inpatient volume was virus-related and care not related to the coronavirus plummeted again.
The care required by hospitalized COVID-19 patients crowded out other care and stressed the state’s health care workforce, according to WHA. Outpatient surgeries and procedures fell 13 percent and emergency department visits fell 20 percent.
WHA says fear and stigma associated with the virus deterred patients from seeking out regular care.