April 24th, 2020

An increase in pathology media mentions despite a drop in pathology testing

‘Pathology’ has become a buzzword for 2020 despite alarming drop in pathology testing rates in Australia

 

In a time where the words ‘nasal swab’ and ‘antibody’ frequently come up in conversation, you would think that pathology labs are are bursting with demand. Laboratories are processing thousands of COVID-19 tests on top of their usual workload. However, testing for all other conditions has decreased by 40% in the past weeks. This worrying trend linked to a fear of contracting the virus or of being a burden to the health system.

This analysis looks into the use of the keyword ‘pathology’ in all media types over the past 30 days against this time last year. We will use our media monitoring software Meltwater to conduct this analysis.

Pathology has featured in the media more in recent months than in the past decade, as it is the science that diagnoses COVID-19. Readers are served hundreds of articles explaining how nasal swabs and polymerase chain reaction work, the difference between nucleic-acid testing and serology testing, and more. Every day, we are breaking testing number records, and we have learnt to depend on local manufacturers and experts to battle against the virus.

The graphics below show the Media Exposure for the keyword ‘pathology’. This means the number of articles published or news stories aired that contain this keyword.

Print and online:

 

The difference is obvious between the two line-graphs for Media Exposure in print and online.

  • The y-axis of the 2019 graph only reaches 100, whereas the y-axis for 2020 reaches 1000, which gives a good idea of the amplitude of the increase. ‘Pathology’ has become a buzzword for 2020.
  • The recent spikes in this year’s graph are:
    • Zero new COVID-19 cases in South Australia.
    • The testing criteria updates in some states and territories.

Social media:

 

The social Media Exposure measure tracks Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social channels. It is not specific to Australia.

  • The average Media Exposure for the keyword ‘pathology’ has more than doubled since 2019 on social media.
  • More conversations about happening about this topic online and people are asking more questions about it around the world.

Broadcast:

 

  • The Media Exposure trend for the keyword ‘pathology’ in broadcast media was a surprise. It is more or less unchanged since 2019.
  • ‘Pathology’ spiked this time last year is due to a widely broadcasted news story. Bill Shorten announced that 140,000 Australians were delaying their pathology tests for financial reasons. All major television channels and hundreds of radio stations covered the story.

People delaying or missing their pathology appointments was not just 2019’s problem. This worrying trend is happening right this minute in Australia. However, money isn’t the only reason people are missing or delaying appointments this year.

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia announced a couple of weeks ago that there has been a 40% drop pathology testing; over 60,000 Australians every day are not getting the tests they need.

This means people living with chronic health conditions are going without their sometimes-vital results. These test results can help health professionals make decisions about their treatment plans. Additionally, people are currently living undiagnosed for serious health conditions that require immediate treatment. When it comes to our health, time is of essence.

This significant drop in pathology testing is due to a number of possible reasons. There is some fear that GP clinics and collection centres in the time of COVID-19. People with chronic health conditions may not want to put themselves at risk of catching the virus. Others may assume that routine medical appointments are not going ahead because health services being too busy at this time. Some may not want to be a ‘burden’ on the health system.

Dr Debra Graves, CEO of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, said: “Pathology providers are experts in detecting infectious diseases. They ensure that all parts of the organisation follow best practice to minimise COVID-19 infection risk. This includes collection centres, where strict hygiene, appropriate distancing and separation measures are in place.”

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