HealthAffairs | Boston OHCA Outcomes During the Pandemic
Worse Cardiac Arrest Outcomes During The COVID-19 Pandemic In Boston Can Be Attributed To Patient Reluctance To Seek Care
Delays in seeking emergency care stemming from patient reluctance may explain the rise in cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and associated poor health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study we used emergency medical services (EMS) call data from the Boston, Massachusetts, area to describe the association between patients’ reluctance to call EMS for cardiac-related care and both excess out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence and related outcomes during the pandemic. During the initial COVID-19 wave, cardiac-related EMS calls decreased (−27.2 percent), calls with hospital transportation refusal increased (+32.5 percent), and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence increased (+35.5 percent) compared with historical baselines. After the initial wave, although cardiac-related calls remained lower (−17.2 percent), out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence remained elevated (+24.8 percent) despite fewer COVID-19 infections and relaxed public health advisories. Throughout Boston’s fourteen neighborhoods, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence was significantly associated with decreased cardiac-related calls, but not with COVID-19 infection rates. These findings suggest that patients were reluctant to obtain emergency care. Efforts are needed to ensure that patients seek timely care both during and after the pandemic to reduce potentially avoidable excess cardiovascular disease deaths.