COVID-19 Pandemic Profoundly Changes Delivery of MS Care
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unforeseen changes in healthcare delivery for patients with MS, and the pandemic’s swift progression led to a knowledge gap about how the virus has impacted practice patterns for MS clinicians, according to researchers. They sought to determine how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered clinical practice patterns in a nationwide cohort sample of MS clinicians in the United States. Working with the National MS Society (NMSS), researchers created a 28-item electronic questionnaire about MS specialists’ perceptions of how COVID-19 has changed how they prescribe MS disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), provide telehealth and other services, and view issues related to their own well-being, such as redeployment to front-line COVID-19 care and the availability of personal protective equipment. Of 86 respondents who completed the survey, more than 80% working on-site in a healthcare setting reported having adequate personal protective equipment, although only 41.6% indicated that they could safely distance from others at work. Almost 10% of respondents reported being redeployed to the front lines of COVID-19 patient care; an additional 16.9% expected to be redeployed. More than one-third of participating MS specialist physicians noted that, since the start of the pandemic, they were using telemedicine to provide more than 75% of their clinical care, and greater than 80% believed COVID-19 altered how they prescribe DMTs. A proportion of respondents noted suspending certain DMTs during the pandemic (21.4% for alemtuzumab and 16.7% for B-cell–depleting agents) or increasing dosing intervals (38.1% for natalizumab, 11.9% for fingolimod and siponimod). Results of the survey indicated profound changes in how MS specialists provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers noted.