Document Type: Original Article
Accident & Emergency Medicine Academic Unit, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong, China
Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
JC School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
As health systems across the world respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), there is rising concern that patients without COVID-19 are not receiving timely emergency care, resulting in avoidable deaths. This study examined patterns of self-reported health service utilization, their socio-demographic determinants and association with avoidable deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak.
A cross-sectional telephone survey was conducted between March 22 and April 1, 2020, during the peak rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong. Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents over 18-years-old were recruited using a computerised random digital dialling (RDD) system. The RDD method used stratified random sampling to ensure a representative sample of the target population by age, gender, and residential district. A structured self-reported questionnaire was used.
Out of 1738 placed calls, 765 subjects responded to the questionnaire (44.0% response rate). The factors associated with avoiding medical consultation included being female (37.2% vs. 22.5%, P < .001), married (32.8% vs. 27%, P = .044), completing tertiary education (35.3% vs. 27.7% (secondary) vs. 14.8% (primary), P = .005), and those who reported a “large/very large” impact of COVID-19 on their mental health (36.1% vs 30.5% (neutral) vs. 19.7% (very small/small), P = .047) using logistic regression analysis.
Married females with both higher educational attainment and concern about COVID-19 were associated with avoiding healthcare services. Timely public communication to encourage and promote early health seeking treatment even during extreme events such as pandemics are needed.