People living with heart disease, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment are worse off – both physically and mentally – because they have not been able to access the care they needed during the pandemic, according to a Heart & Stroke Foundation survey.
The online survey of 370 health professionals, conducted by Environics Research Aug. 16–Sept. 7, highlighted concerns that COVID-19 has damaged previously healthy hearts. There were also worries that inequities resulting from the pandemic will persist – with communities whose health was disproportionately affected by the pandemic continuing to experience worse health.
Effects on health professionals and researchers
- Seven in 10 health professionals and researchers who work in heart and brain health have been personally affected by the pandemic.
- Two in five (39 per cent) have had patients with COVID.
- One in five (20 per cent) have had a close family member with COVID.
- Two in five (39 per cent) have had a friend/acquaintance with COVID.
- Four per cent have had COVID.
- Virtually all reported that the pandemic has had some impact on their professional work and three-quarters (74 per cent) say the impact has been major.
- Almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) feel their work will change as a result of the pandemic and some of them (16 per cent) expect the changes to be substantial.
Effects on people living with heart disease or stroke
- Delays in diagnosis and treatment resulting in worse health was the biggest issue for people living with heart disease or stroke, according to more than eight in 10 (82 per cent).
- More than half (54 per cent) cited mental health issues as significant for people living with heart disease or stroke during the pandemic.
- More than (54 per cent) are worried about a decrease in cardiovascular health in people who did not have existing conditions prior to the pandemic.
- More than eight in 10 (84 per cent) think the health-care gap has widened between those who receive appropriate care and those who do not. Almost one in three (29 per cent) believe the gap has widened a lot.
- Almost half (47 per cent) are concerned that those living with heart disease or stroke who were already vulnerable due to inequities are now at even greater risk.
- Nine in 10 (90 per cent) are worried that communities that bore a disproportionate burden of ill health effects due to the pandemic will continue to do so.
- The primary areas of focus going forward to best support people living with heart disease or stroke should be rehabilitation, treatment and community supports and services.
- Additional areas to focus on moving out of the pandemic include diagnosis, virtual health care and mental health.
Effects on heart and brain health research
- More than three in four (78 per cent) are worried that the pandemic has slowed or stopped critical heart and brain health research.
- Three in four (75 per cent) are worried that momentum toward research on heart and brain health has been lost.
Effects on the health-care system
- More than two-thirds (68 per cent) cited health-care provider burnout as a challenge post-pandemic.
- About two-thirds (65 per cent) flagged increased wait times for appointments and procedures as a serious post-pandemic challenge.
- Almost half (45 per cent) noted an increased burden on the system due to more and sicker patients as a post-pandemic challenge.
- More than seven in 10 (73 per cent) believe there will be more virtual health-care opportunities and almost half (46 per cent) see opportunities for increased focus on mental health.
- According to roughly one in four, other benefits could include improved protocols and procedures (29 per cent); increased focus on prevention (26 per cent); better coordination and transitions of care (22 per cent); and better collaboration across disciplines (21 per cent).
- More than seven out of 10 health professionals (72 per cent) and researchers believe the pandemic has highlighted the importance of an increased focus on support for health promotion.