Declining interest in clinical imaging during the COVID-19 pandemic: An analysis of Google Trends data.
OBJECTIVE: Current evidence suggests a decrease in elective diagnostic imaging procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic with potentially severe long-term consequences. The aim of this study was to quantify recent trends in public interest and related online search behavior for a range of imaging modalities, and "nowcast" future scenarios with respect to imaging use. METHODS: We used Google Trends, a publicly available database to access search query data in systematic and quantitative fashion, to search for key terms related to clinical imaging. We queried the search volume for multiple imaging modalities, identified the most common terms, extracted data for the United States over the time range from August 1, 2016 to August 1, 2020. Results were given in relative terms, using the Google metric 'search volume index'. RESULTS: We report a decrease in public interest across all imaging modalities since March 2020 with a subsequent slow increase starting in May 2020. Mean relative search volume (RSV) has changed by -19.4%, -38.3%, and -51.0% for the search terms "Computed tomography", "Magnetic resonance imaging", and "Mammography", respectively, and comparing the two months prior to and following March 1, 2020. RSV has since steadily recuperated reaching all-year highs. CONCLUSION: Decrease in public interest coupled with delays and deferrals of diagnostic imaging will likely result in a high demand for healthcare in the coming months. To respond to this challenge, measures such as risk-stratification algorithms must be developed to allocate resources and avoid the risk of overstraining the healthcare system.
Adelhoefer, S; Henry, TS; Blankstein, R; Graham, G; Blaha, MJ; Dzaye, O
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