By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Many Americans have been avoiding emergency medical care over fears of contracting COVID-19. Now, advocacy organizations are launching campaigns to encourage the public to visit local emergency departments (EDs) when necessary and as soon as possible.

Data show patients with heart attacks, strokes, and other time-sensitive needs are reluctant to seek emergency care during the pandemic. Some of these patients eventually present for care in much worse shape than if they had accessed care right away.

In response, the American Heart Association (AHA) this week launched the national “Don’t Die of Doubt” campaign, which stresses the importance of calling 911 in an emergency and highlights the safety measures medical facilities have taken to protect against the virus.

“Heart attacks and strokes don’t stop happening just because of COVID-19,” AHA President Robert Harrington, MD, FAHA, said in a statement. “Emergency responders, as well as doctors and nurses at the hospital, are well-equipped to keep you, and themselves, safe while providing life-saving emergency care. When seconds count, the hospital is the still safest place to be.”

Before the AHA launched its campaign, advocates had been working at the state and local levels to convince patients there was no need to defer urgent care. In May, the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) worked with members to create an education campaign of its own. Similar to the AHA initiative, WSHA offers the public educational materials concerning safety measures and about where to find emergency care.

At Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, a 150-bed community hospital in California, leaders reported a 50% decline in ED visits between the first week of March and the first week of April. In response, a group of experts in human-centered design worked to reconfigure the ED and implement several other steps aimed at reassuring patients in need of emergency care that it would be safe to present to the ED.

An author of the report about the Lodi ED reconfiguration, a representative from the WSHA, and others will go on the record in the upcoming August issue of ED Management to discuss their work and this subject in much more detail.

For all the latest Relias Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.