Patient Perceptions on Barriers and Facilitators to Accessing Low-acuity Surgery During COVID-19 Pandemic

J Surg Res. 2021 Aug;264:30-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2021.01.028. Epub 2021 Feb 6.


Background: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of low-acuity surgical procedures in an effort to conserve resources and ensure patient safety. This study aimed to characterize patient-reported concerns about undergoing surgical procedures during the pandemic.

Methods: We administered a cross-sectional survey to patients who had their general and plastic surgical procedures postponed at the onset of the pandemic, asking about barriers to accessing surgical care. Questions addressed dependent care, transportation, employment and insurance status, as well as perceptions of and concerns about COVID-19. Mixed methods and inductive thematic analyses were conducted.

Results: One hundred thirty-five patients were interviewed. We identified the following patient concerns: contracting COVID-19 in the hospital (46%), being alone during hospitalization (40%), facing financial stressors (29%), organizing transportation (28%), experiencing changes to health insurance coverage (25%), and arranging care for dependents (18%). Nonwhite participants were 5 and 2.5 times more likely to have concerns about childcare and transportation, respectively. Perceptions of decreased hospital safety and the consequences of possible COVID-19 infection led to delay in rescheduling. Education about safety measures and communication about scheduling partially mitigated concerns about COVID-19. However, uncertainty about timeline for rescheduling and resolution of the pandemic contributed to ongoing concerns.

Conclusions: Providing effective surgical care during this unprecedented time requires both awareness of societal shifts impacting surgical patients and system-level change to address new barriers to care. Eliciting patients' perspectives, adapting processes to address potential barriers, and effectively educating patients about institutional measures to minimize in-hospital transmission of COVID-19 should be integrated into surgical care.

Keywords: COVID-19; Delayed procedures; Patient experience; Patient perceptions; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / psychology
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elective Surgical Procedures / psychology*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / organization & administration
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • Uncertainty