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Epidemiology and Health 2022;e2022044.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4178/epih.e2022044    [Accepted] Published online May 1, 2022.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Care in a Tertiary Hospital in Korea: Possible Collateral Damage to Emergency Care
Shin Hye Yoo1  , Jin-Ah Sim2  , Jeongmi Shin1  , Bhumsuk Keam3  , Jun-Bean Park3  , Aesun Shin4,5 
1Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
2School of AI Convergence, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea
3Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
4Department of Preventive Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
5Cancer Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Correspondence  Bhumsuk Keam ,Email: bhumsuk@snu.ac.kr
Received: Mar 9, 2022  Accepted after revision: May 1, 2022
We investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care in a tertiary hospital of South Korea without the specific lockdown measures.
A retrospective cohort of cancer patients from one of the largest tertiary hospitals in South Korea was used to compare the healthcare utilization in different settings (outpatient clinic, emergency department (ED), and admission) between the period of January 1 and December 31, 2020 and the same time period in 2019. The percent changes in healthcare utilization between two periods were calculated.
A total of 448,833 cases from the outpatient cohort, 26,781 cases from the ED cohort, and 14,513 cases from the admission cohort were reviewed for 2019 and 2020. The total number of ED visit cases significantly decreased in 2020 than in 2019 by 18.04%, whereas the proportion of cancer patients maintained. The reduction in ED visits was more prominent in cases with COVID-19 suspicious symptoms, with high acuity, and those who lived in non-capital city area. There were no significant changes in the number of total visits and new cases in the outpatient clinic between two periods. No significant differences in the total number of hospitalizations were observed between two periods.
During the pandemic, the number of ED visits significantly decreased, while the use of outpatient clinic and hospitalizations were not affected. Cancer patients’ ED visits decreased after the COVID-19 outbreak, suggesting the potential for collateral damage outside the hospital if the ED could not be reached in a timely manner.
Keywords: COVID-19; cancer; care; tertiary hospital; Republic of Korea
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