Impact of COVID-19 ‘Safer at Home’ Order on Radiology Utilization

Leesburg, VA, April 18, 2021—A Scientific E-Poster to be presented at the 2021 ARRS Virtual Annual Meeting found the COVID-19 “Safer at Home” order resulted in a significant decline in radiology ordering utilization, outpatient consultations, and emergency department (ED) visits. 

“There was a disproportionate impact in the outpatient setting, especially on screening and other nonessential imaging,” wrote Evan Raff of Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, which “mirrors the impact that the order has had on clinical services, as reflected in outpatient consult volumes, with larger declines in specialties with high screening rates, including in gastroenterology, optometry/ophthalmology, and gynecology.”

Raff’s review of radiology orders, indications, and appropriateness for studies in Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services system determined total radiology orders declined by an average of 40% following the “Safer At Home” order. Moreover, outpatient volumes declined by 67%, ED volumes declined by 21%, and inpatient volumes declined by 13%. 

The biggest impacts on subspecialty imaging were seen in dexa and breast imaging, which saw volume decreases of 88% and 80%, respectively, whereas the least impacted areas were body CT and interventional radiology, which only saw a 29% and 26% decline, respectively.

ED visits, typically considered urgent and essential, declined by an average of 44%, indicating that the “Safer at Home” order “was also reducing utilization of some essential services or that these visits/orders may not have been truly urgent,” the author of this ARRS Annual Meeting E-Poster concluded.

Founded in 1900, the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) is the first and oldest radiological society in North America, dedicated to the advancement of medicine through the profession of radiology and its allied sciences. An international forum for progress in medical imaging since the discovery of the x-ray, ARRS maintains its mission of improving health through a community committed to advancing knowledge and skills with an annual scientific meeting, monthly publication of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), quarterly issues of InPractice magazine, AJR Live Webinars and Podcasts, topical symposia, print and online educational materials, as well as awarding scholarships via The Roentgen Fund®.