Experts warn of an ‘avalanche’ of chronically ill patients after the pandemic

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Health professionals had to deal with a virus they were not aware of. As they cared for patients, they tried to detect the symptoms of a disease that raised daily mortality rates to levels never seen before. Often other chronic conditions they were left aside or hidden among the contagions of Covid-19.

It is the case of diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, which in some cases may have been relegated during the pandemic. For this reason, not only is an important arrival of chronic patients who already had some type of condition expected in the coming years, but patients who were infected with coronavirus and who may continue to present symptoms in the coming years will also be a fundamental aspect to consider. This has been announced by the experts who have participated in the round table ‘Pathologies and treatments that need to be prioritized after the pandemic’, during the II Symposium of the Health Observatory: The lessons of Covid-19, organized by EL ESPAÑOL and Invest in the day of this Tuesday.

Diabetes is precisely one of those diseases that has posed the greatest challenges throughout the pandemic. As explained by Antonio Pérez, president of the Spanish Diabetes Society (SED), all patient follow-up has been abandoned. Pérez denounces that there has been a lack of monitoring of patients during the pandemic, especially in those who are not able to adjust their treatment, as may be the case of the elderly. “Neither have the early diagnosis programs been carried out “, so “we know that we are going to pay for it in the coming years.”

A diagnosis that has left much to be desired in other diseases as important as cancer. Eva Ciruelos, coordinator of the Breast Unit at HM Hospitales, makes it clear: “It is estimated that 20% of cancer patients are lost and have not yet arrived, they are still at home”. Account that biopsies have been reduced by about 30%. Figures that do not only belong to Spain: in the United States it reaches 45%, and in Italy even 50%.

Plums highlights “the urgent need” to rescue patients who never made it to consultations due to the outbreak of the pandemic. In the field of oncology, it is patients with breast and colon cancer who are going to suffer the most from the increase in mortality, in part because they are the most common. In the case of breast cancer, for example, there are studies that place a mortality of 5% more due to a delay in diagnosis of only three months.

Chilling data that can undoubtedly be transferred to other aspects such as cardiovascular diseases. Dr. José Ángel Cabrera, head of the Cardiology Service of the Quirónsalud Madrid University Hospital, assures that the affectation by cardiovascular disease “It is seen in 20% or 30% of patients hospitalized for Covid-19”. But above all, it emphasizes that the social awareness that existed in society about not going to hospitals unless necessary, has made many patients not go to consultation. “The patients were more worried about the cough,” he explains, which has made the professionals find themselves “with a new, dramatic situation.” “Before the end of the year, we are going to have more than 75,000 heart attacks in this country,” laments Cabrera.

But if there is one aspect that has been central throughout these months, it has been the medical care of the patients. Many have had to learn as they go and adapt to the technologies present in hospitals and also to the possibilities of patients. Olga Espallardo, director of Market Access and Public Affairs Director of Novo Nordisk, assured at the meeting that if this pandemic has shown anything, it is that “we must rethink the service delivery model” and make a better fit with Primary Care in terms of prevention.

“It would have been worthwhile to make health policies focused on how to manage chronic diseases so as not to have the effect that we are going to have”, says Espallardo, who wonders how we are going to be able to compensate “all those chronic in a post-Covid context.” As a solution, he affirms that an increase in investment in healthcare will be important to avoid the collapse of hospitals in future pandemics, in addition to knowing how to bet on innovation is essential.

Among the lessons that professionals take, is the importance of caring for health and well-being, to take care of the patient in a personalized way and to bet on preventive medicine and early diagnosis. They ensure that for this to work, the care of health professionals who have been on the front line of the pandemic cannot be forgotten.

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