Imaging Utilization During the COVID-19 Pandemic Highlights Socioeconomic Health Disparities.
OBJECTIVE: The devastating impact from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic highlights long-standing socioeconomic health disparities in the United States. The purpose of this study was to evaluate socioeconomic factors related to imaging utilization during the pandemic.
METHODS: Retrospective review of consecutive imaging examinations was performed from January 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020, across all service locations (inpatient, emergency, outpatient). Patient level data were provided for socioeconomic factors (age, gender, race, insurance status, residential zip code). Residential zip code was used to assign median income level. The weekly total imaging volumes in 2020 and 2019 were plotted from January 1 to May 31 stratified by socioeconomic factors to demonstrate the trends during the pre-COVID-19 (January 1 to February 28) and post-COVID-19 (March 1 to May 31) periods. Independent-samples t tests were used to statistically compare the 2020 and 2019 socioeconomic groups.
RESULTS: Compared with 2019, the 2020 total imaging volume in the post-COVID-19 period revealed statistically significant increased imaging utilization in patients who are aged 60 to 79 years (P = .0025), are male (P < .0001), are non-White (Black, Asian, other, unknown) (P < .05), are covered by Medicaid or uninsured (P < .05), and have income below $80,000 (P < .05). However, there was a significant decrease in imaging utilization among patients who are younger (
DISCUSSION: During the pandemic, there was a significant change in imaging utilization varying by socioeconomic factors, consistent with the known health disparities observed in the prevalence of COVID-19. These findings could have significant implications in directing utilization of resources during the pandemic and subsequent recovery.