Background: A better understanding of the pattern of epidemic-related referrals to healthcare centers might allow the identification of vulnerabilities and the required changes that the healthcare management system should undergo.
Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the COVID-19 referral pattern and the role of media and health management planning in changing the trends.
Methods: Data extracted from the electronic medical database of Imam Khomeini Hospital Complex (IKHC), located in Tehran, Iran, from February 20 to June 4, 2020 were examined. Individuals were divided into two groups, COVID-19 positive and negative. We used Google Trends to evaluate Google Internet search queries and also available policy documents, programs, and official news related to COVID-19 in Iran during the mentioned period.
Results: In this study, 8647 individuals aged 46.05 ± 16.5 years were referred to IKHC. Approximately 57% were male, and 70% were COVID-19 positive. The most clinical symptoms were dyspnea, fever, cough, and myalgia. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus were the most common underlying health conditions. In the first two weeks, the percentage of negative cases was higher than positive cases and then the pattern was reversed, when people searched for information about COVID-19 in media.
Conclusions: Proper and timely information and education to people through the media and health management measures can be effective in reducing unnecessary visits to health centers, preventing the exhaustion of medical staff, and controlling the disease during epidemics.