Are chronically ill patients being left behind by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Published 23 Dec 2020 • By Gilda Teissier
Since the start of the pandemic, Carenity has been surveying its members about the impact COVID-19 has had on their daily lives. At a time when the attention of public authorities and healthcare professionals is focused on the care of people suffering from COVID-19, Carenity wanted to understand, through two surveys, the impact of the health crisis on chronic patients and loved ones.
How are patients with chronic illnesses coping with the current pandemic?
Discover the results from our international survey in our article!
COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome which, since its outbreak in China in December 2019, has alarmed the global community and driven countries to take extreme measures to keep their populations safe. To contain the virus, lockdowns and social distancing practices have been implemented in many countries since March 2020, resulting changes in daily living habits, reduced physical activity, disruption of medical supplies and consultations, and so on.
In order to better understand how chronic patients are navigating the pandemic, Carenity conducted a two-part study, the first from 19 March to 19 April, 2020, with a total of 7,458 respondents and the second from 3 June to 21 September, 2020, with 3,876 respondents.
The objective of these surveys was to understand patients' preferred sources of information on COVID-19 and their needs in terms of specific advice and support. Carenity was also interested in monitoring changes in access to care and treatment, as well as the long-term impact of the pandemic on chronic patients.
The majority of participants in both surveys are affected by these 5 conditions:
Asthma I Multiple Sclerosis I Type 2 Diabetes I COPD I Hypertension
Only 3% of all respondents were tested for COVID-19
Regarding their access to medical consultations and treatment, patients reported:
49% have seen an impact on the frequency of consultations with their doctor since the start of the pandemic.
25% of respondents found that it has been more difficult to find an available doctor.
46% of respondents have had their medical procedures or consultations cancelled or postponed.
1 in 10 patients reported that it has been more difficult to find their treatment at the pharmacy.
18% of patients undergoing long-term treatment changed the frequency of their treatment intake during the period when the first survey was administered, but by the time of the second wave survey, 21% reported having changed their treatment. Similarly, during the first wave of the survey, 10% of respondents partially or totally stopped their treatments, while during the second wave, 40% indicated that they had stopped taking their treatments, either temporarily or permanently.
"My doctor told me to stop my treatment because it could make me more vulnerable to COVID-19," said one respondent.
Although access to healthcare professionals improved between the 2 waves of the survey, it is still difficult for some patients to access medical consultations, even though most have tried teleconsultation.
Almost 25% of chronic patients have used teleconsultation and 83% were satisfied with it.
63% of those who have telemedicine are willing to use it again.
In terms of access to information and compliance with health authority and government recommendations, patients indicated that access to masks and hand sanitising gel improved during the second wave of the survey.
The most important thing for patients with chronic conditions during these times was to receive information about the risks related to their specific condition and the steps they should take in terms of treatments and prevention. These needs were similarly expressed between patients who had access to information and those who had received no information.
42% of patients were satisfied with the specific information they received concerning COVID-19 and their condition
40% did not have access to specific information
At the same time, it was found that there is a huge gap between respondents' trust in information sources and how they use these sources.
Television, for instance, is used by 64% of respondents, while only 24% trust the information it provides
COVID-19 has not only led to problems in accessing treatment or changing habits, it has also had a significant psychological impact. These studies have also made it possible to analyse these consequences:
The studies found that the pandemic has had a strong impact on patients’ stress and social isolation and that this impact has worsened as the pandemic has continued. Respondents rated their level of stress at 6.5 out of 10 on average, and their level of isolation at 5.9 out of 10 on average since the beginning of the epidemic.
59% of patients feel they are in danger because of their chronic condition.
32% are worried for their loved ones, which further impacts their stress level.
Nevertheless, with regard to social activities, 54% of patients reported that they were returning to public places and 75% were reconnecting with family and friends. This may help to reduce the psychological impact of lockdown in the long term.
Do the results of this survey reflect your story?
Share your experience with us in the comments below!
- What is the impact of COVID-19 on chronic patients? - First Wave. Carenity.
- What is the impact of COVID-19 on chronic patients? - Second Wave. Carenity.
- Effect of COVID-19 lockdown on patients with chronic diseases. US National Library of Medicine.