The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted diagnostics and healthcare services

The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the diagnosis and treatment of all other diseases during this time. According to the article “Missing Diagnoses During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Year in Review” published in the scientific journal “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health”, the pandemic had major impacts on population health, not only through COVID-positive cases, but also via the disruption of healthcare services.

The study, co-authored by UB School of Economics researcher Joan Gil, with Héctor Pifarrré Arolas, Josep Vidal-Alaball, Francesc López Seguí, Catia Nicodemo and Marc Sáez, examines the changes in all new registered diagnoses in ICD-10 groups during 2020 regarding a 2019 baseline. The authors compare new diagnoses in 2019 and 2020 based on administrative records of the public primary health system in Central Catalonia, Spain, which cover over 400,000 patients and 3 million patient visits.

After evaluating the ratio of new diagnoses between 2019 and 2020, they reported a decline of 31.1% in new diagnoses, with substantial drops in April (61.1%), May (55.6%), and November (52%). While they found evidence of temporal variation in new diagnoses, reductions in diagnoses early in the year are not recouped by the end of the year. This decline in new diagnoses across all groups suggests many untreated and undetected cases across conditions. For example, neoplasms experienced the largest decline (49.7%), with heterogeneity in the magnitudes of the declines across different types of cancer diagnoses.

According to the results of the study, the findings provides a year-end summary of the impact of the pandemic on healthcare activities and the authors are convinced that it can help guide health authorities to design evidence-based plans to target under-diagnosed conditions in 2021.

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