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Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) ; 73(8): 1153-1161, 2021 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1298444


OBJECTIVE: The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on community-based rheumatology care and the use of telehealth is unclear. We undertook this study to investigate the impact of the pandemic on rheumatology care delivery in a large community practice-based network. METHODS: Using a community practice-based rheumatologist network, we examined trends in in-person versus telehealth visits versus canceled visits in 3 time periods: pre-COVID-19, COVID-19 transition (6 weeks beginning March 23, 2020), and post-COVID-19 transition (May-August). In the transition period, we compared patients who received in-person care versus telehealth visits versus those who cancelled all visits. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with canceled or telehealth visits. RESULTS: Pre-COVID-19, there were 7,075 visits/week among 60,002 unique rheumatology patients cared for by ~300 providers practicing in 92 offices. This number decreased substantially (24.6% reduction) during the COVID-19 transition period for in-person visits but rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels during the post-COVID-19 transition. There were almost no telehealth visits pre-COVID-19, but telehealth increased substantially during the COVID-19 transition (41.4% of all follow-up visits) and slightly decreased during the post-COVID-19 transition (27.7% of visits). Older age, female sex, Black or Hispanic race/ethnicity, lower socioeconomic status, and rural residence were associated with a greater likelihood of canceling visits. Most factors were also associated with a lower likelihood of having telehealth versus in-office visits. Patients living further from the rheumatologists' office were more likely to use telehealth. CONCLUSION: COVID-19 led to large disruptions in rheumatology care; these disruptions were only partially offset by increases in telehealth use and disproportionately affected racial/ethnic minorities and patients with lower socioeconomic status. During the COVID-19 era, telehealth continues to be an important part of rheumatology practice, but disparities in access to care exist for some vulnerable groups.

COVID-19/epidemiology , Community Health Services/trends , Office Visits/trends , Patient Acceptance of Health Care , Rheumatology/trends , Telemedicine/trends , Adult , Aged , COVID-19/prevention & control , Delivery of Health Care/trends , Female , Follow-Up Studies , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , Male , Middle Aged