New Study Measures the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Chronic Patients

Published on:
March 7, 2020

COVID-19 and chronic illnesses: Will chronic patients be collateral victims of the epidemic?

Carenity, a digital health start-up specializing in medical studies, used their platform to help measure the real-time impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nearly 400,000 chronic patients, including impact on access to healthcare and quality of life. Carenity collaborated with Alira Health to analyze the data.

Chronic patients represent a particularly vulnerable population in the context of this pandemic. Global estimates reveal that one person in four suffers from at least one chronic disease. The survey respondents are chronic patients with an average age of 52 years. 87% of respondents are on background treatment and living in one of the following countries: U.S., France, UK, Germany, Spain or Italy.

Michael Chekroun, the founder of Carenity, commented on the results of the survey: “In this context of an unprecedented health crisis, it is important that chronic patients continue to have the best possible access to care. This is no longer the case for many, and we face a risk of therapeutic disruption. Delays in care could have serious consequences.”

Using Carenity’s proprietary platform, 4,717 survey responses were gathered and analyzed between March 17, 2020 and April 5, 2020, and revealed:

  • 24% of chronic patients have difficulty finding an available doctor
  • 9% have stopped and/or interrupted their background treatment
  • 10% have difficulty finding their prescription drugs in pharmacies
  • 42% have had a consultation or surgery canceled or rescheduled

Dr. Giacomo Basadonna, Alira Health’s Chief Medical Officer commented, “An important factor to consider is that this pandemic has hindered physical visits. Currently, almost all dentists have suspended patient appointments, and many physicians see their patients via internet video or by phone. Doctors are still available, and it allows us to avoid patients congregating in waiting rooms where they could be exposed to the virus. It is also likely that some patients have decided to postpone their regularly scheduled visits with their doctors for safety reasons.”

Since the beginning of the confinement, 40% of patients report consulting their doctor less than usual. In addition, 3.5% of patients have stopped their treatment altogether and 5.5% have temporarily stopped taking their medication. 10% of patients say they have difficulty finding their prescription in a pharmacy.

These figures show that there is a risk of therapeutic discontinuation for patients requiring regular care and treatment.

Sophie Crozier, Head of the Stroke Unit at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris noted: “We’ve set up a working group with other hospitals to analyze what’s going on because we’re seeing far fewer stroke victims, at least 50% fewer. And in cardio, it’s the same: half as many heart attacks. That’s not normal, and it is worrisome. Are patients afraid to get in the way? For some, they arrive too late or they die at home.”

When patients were asked to rate the impact of the epidemic on their stress level on a scale of 0 to 10 (0=not stressed at all and 10=extremely stressed), the mean score was 7/10. The main concern for patients is the risk related to their disease (35%), ahead of the risks of the epidemic for their relatives (34%) and the risk of global spread of the virus (11%).

The results of this survey come at a time when general practitioners globally are raising their voices to warn of the risk of loss of opportunity for patients suffering from chronic illnesses, particularly following announcements in several countries asking citizens to reserve their medical travel for urgent care.

“The implementation of this large-scale study and our ability to track a large digital cohort of patients shows that new models of engagement and anonymous data collection can be leveraged, not only for research purposes but also to support public health action,” said Michael Chekroun. “Because we communicate daily with Carenity’s members, we can track the changing behaviors and expectations of patients and their families over time, in an accurate and reliable way.”

About Carenity:

Founded in 2011, Carenity is a social platform that brings together more than 400,000 patients and caregivers around the world to share experiences with other patients and access high quality, well-substantiated medical information.

Carenity conducts patient-focused studies whose results enable healthcare stakeholders to better and quickly understand patients’ needs and improve healthcare products and services.

More information:

Click here to view the press release.

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