Mayo, Cleveland Clinic CEOs: Delayed care deaths may mirror COVID-19 toll

More than 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. The CEOs of Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic wrote in a June 9 op-ed in The New York Times that it's likely the death toll is the same for people who've avoided the hospital for fear of contracting the novel virus.

Cleveland Clinic's Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, and Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic's Gianrico Farrugia, MD, said while stay-at-home orders and guidance to defer nonessential care slowed the spread of COVID-19, those policies, coupled with the loss of employer-sponsored health plans for many, meant patients put off critical care.

Several studies cited in the op-ed found new cancer diagnoses are down 45 percent; reported heart attacks are down 38 percent; and strokes are down 30 percent. Emergency department visits are also down by as much as 40 percent, but the patients who are going are much more sick from delaying care, according to findings from a Mayo study. Drs. Mihaljevic and Farrugia urged patients with serious conditions to return to their providers.

"The true cost of this epidemic will not be measured in dollars; it will be measured in human lives and human suffering. In the case of cancer alone, our calculations show we can expect a quarter of a million additional preventable deaths annually if normal care does not resume," they wrote.

View the full op-ed here.

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