Doctors and healthcare experts are concerned that delayed diagnosis and interruptions in treatment are resulting in many preventable deaths and the worsening prognosis for patients.
As we observe World Heart Day, healthcare experts underline the need for ensuring continuity of treatment for heart patients and resorting to better lifestyle management to prevent disease-related complications.
Doctors say acute and chronic cardiovascular disease care has decreased significantly due to reduced accessibility and patient fears during the pandemic.
“Heart disease has marginally increased by 10 to 20% compared to pre-COVID. But patients are not coming forward due to fear except in an emergency. So, there is a 25% decline in the number of patients reporting on time in hospitals. Increasingly, younger adults are getting symptomatic also. Evidently, people are postponing hospital visits until it is unavoidable. Disruptions in travel and transport have further prevented many people from smaller towns and rural areas from reaching hospitals for treatment. While there is no data or analysis to understand what is happening to these patients, many of them have not been able to receive medical care and treatment on time. In a nutshell, patients with cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes, etc are experiencing delays in diagnosis and treatment, which in turn will significantly increase the burden of heart disease and preventable deaths,” said Dr D K Jhamb, Director & HOD, Cardiology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.
Notably, heart disease is responsible for one in four deaths in India today with ischemic heart disease and stroke responsible for more than 80% of this burden. As many as 2.8 million Indians died due to heart disease in 2016. Evidently, this disease is a bigger pandemic than coronavirus and medical care for heart patients must not be sidelined at any cost.
“Due to several constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, many heart patients have had to postpone their follow up visits to their doctor. Importantly, advised elective cardiac procedures such as stenting, angiographies, etc. are suffering major delays, a cause of grave concern. This serious interruption in the continuum of care for heart patients can lead to severe criticalities and untimely deaths that could be prevented,” noted Dr Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare and Pharma. During this time, the fatality rate in patients with cardiovascular diseases including heart failure also has been abnormally high at 10.5% as against 2.3% in the general population, he further said.