Many aspects of healthcare were altered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but early on in the outbreak, ambulatory care received relatively little research attention. During the onset of the pandemic, researchers profiled the ambulatory care experience, specifically the availability and satisfaction, of veterans. To collect quantitative and qualitative information from patients seeing their primary care physician between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020, they used a semi-structured telephone interview. About 40 veterans were selected at random from a single large urban Veterans Health Administration VHA medical center. To characterize veterans’ views on their access to and satisfaction with primary care at VHA and non-VHA sources, the interview guide used 56 closed and open-ended questions. They also investigated how the pandemic affected veterans’ daily lives. For the quantitative data, they used descriptive statistics, and for the qualitative data, they used a matrix analysis of direct quotes. More appointments were kept by veterans than were originally planned (mean 2.6, SD 2.2), with a shift toward telephone (mean 2.1, SD 2.2) and video (mean 1.5, SD 0.6) consultations. Around 27 people (67%) reported reduced access to care at the start of the pandemic, with 15 (56%) citing administrative barriers (“The phone would hang up on me”) and 9 (33%) citing a lack of provider availability (“They are not reaching out like they used to”). While most veterans (n=31, or 78%) were pleased with the care they received from the VHA (mean score 8.6 (SD 2.0 on a 0–10 scale)), 9 (or 23%) said they were less satisfied after the pandemic. Satisfaction ratings were higher (mean 9.5, SD 1.2) among the 6 (15%) veterans who saw non-VHA providers during the study period. Among the many psychosocial effects reported by veterans, they found a decline in mental health (n = 6; 15%), worry about the virus (n = 12; 30%), and withdrawal from social interaction (n = 8; 20%; “I stay inside and away from people”). The reported number of encounters is consistent with adequate access and satisfaction, but the comments about barriers to care suggest that improved approaches may be warranted to improve and sustain veteran perceptions of adequate access to and satisfaction with primary care during times of crisis.

 

Source:  bmcprimcare.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12875-022-01851-3