Epidemics pose a great challenge to health care of patients. However, the impact of unprecedented situation of COVID-19 outbreak on healthcare of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients in real-world setting has seldom been investigated.
We performed an observational study in a tertiary referral IBD center in China. The mode of healthcare and medication use was compared before and after COVID-19 outbreak. Electronic questionnaire surveys were performed amongst gastroenterologists and IBD patients to investigate impact of COVID-19 outbreak on their attitudes towards telemedicine.
COVID-19 outbreak resulted in substantial decrease of patients participating in standard face-to-face visit during one month post-outbreak (n=51) than pre-outbreak (n=249), whereas the participation in telemedicine was significantly higher than comparable period in 2019 (414 vs 93). During the one month after COVID-19 outbreak, 39 (39/56, 69.6%) patients had their infliximab infusion postponed with the mean delay of 3 weeks. The immunomodulator use was similar between pre- and post-outbreak. Six elective surgeries were postponed for a median of 43 days. In post-outbreak period, 193 (193/297, 64.98%) of the surveyed physicians have used telemedicine with an increase of 18.9% compared to 46.13% (137/292) in the pre-outbreak period (p<0.001). 331(331/505, 65.54%) of the surveyed IBD patients supported that use of telemedicine should be increased in future healthcare.
COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a great change in health care access among IBD patients including decrease in standard face-to-face visit and delay of biologics use. There was an increased use and need of telemedicine after COVID-19 outbreak.
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