COVID-19: Impact on Cardiovascular Disease Care, Lifelong Learning, and Research
In a special report last week, the European Heart Journal spoke to cardiovascular disease (CVD) thought leaders across the globe to gather their insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cardiovascular care.
As background, the feature author, Mark Nicholls, reflected first on the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of populations, health systems, and economic stability worldwide, and then focused his questions on COVID’s direct and indirect impact on CVD.
Interviewed for his insights from the United States was Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center, and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bhatt has served as expert faculty for K2P’s cardiovascular content and he is currently helping to lead K2P’s efforts in the development of new curricula directed to healthcare systems, department and service lines.
Dr. Bhatt reflected on the multi-level negative impact of COVID on cardiovascular care. There has clearly been a marked decrease in patients with acute symptoms (of ACS or heart failure exacerbation) presenting promptly for emergency care during the pandemic, for fear of being exposed to COVID infection and/or from a desire not to add to an overburdened healthcare system. Dr. Bhatt expressed that it is likely that we still do not fully appreciate the full extent of the damage caused by delays in care: patients presenting late with mechanical complications of ACS that could have been avoided, worsening heart failure, and even an increase in the number of patients dying at home from an acute cardiovascular cause that could have been treated successfully in the hospital. Dr. Bhatt stressed the importance of hospitals and health systems reinforcing to their patients and the public the diligent standards in place to protect non-COVID patients from exposure, and that ignoring or postponing treatment for acute CV symptoms is extremely unsafe, perhaps even deadly.
And for patients who are not experiencing acute symptoms, but who may be due for a regular clinical cardiology follow up or a preventive cardiology visit, they should be reassured that in most cases, these visits can be accomplished “virtually” via a web-based or phone visit, with an overall high patient satisfaction rate; the broader use of telemedicine may indeed emerge as one positive result of the current crisis.
Dr. Bhatt also reflected on the impact of the pandemic on the traditional large, live, in person cardiology meetings. Important newsworthy updates from the American College of Cardiology scientific session and other important, highly anticipated cardiovascular learning programs are reaching a growing audience, as we “lifelong learners” all become more adept at leveraging the rapidly evolving technology.
Lastly, Dr. Bhatt commented on the significant impact of the pandemic on multiple components of cardiovascular clinical research trials, as health systems necessarily reprioritize. Among other lessons that we are all learning during the pandemic, he mused hopefully, are strategies about “streamlining clinical research that will be applicable even outside the setting of a pandemic.”