This study aimed to assess the opinions, views, and experience of rheumatology providers at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities about rheumatic disease healthcare issues during the COVID‐19 pandemic. An anonymized cross‐sectional survey of VA rheumatology providers was conducted from 16th April to 18th May, 2020. The provider perspective on the COVID‐19 resilience and issues were assessed.
A significant proportion of providers reported ≥a 50% increase related to COVID‐19 in visits by:
- telephone, 53%;
- video‐based VA video connect (VVC), 44%; and
- clinical video telehealth (CVT) with a facilitator, 29%.
Most of the responders were comfortable with technology for providing healthcare to established patients during the pandemic using the following: 87% by telephone; 64% by VA video connect (VVC); and 54% as in‐person visits. A smaller proportion was comfortable with technology providing healthcare to new patients. At least 65% of rheumatologists considered telephone visits appropriate for established patients with osteoarthritis, stable spondyloarthritis, stable rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, osteoporosis, or gout; 32% reported a rheumatology medication shortage. Adjusted for sex, ethnicity, and age, high provider resilience was correlated with significantly higher odds ratio (OR) of comfort with technology for telephone (OR, 3.1) and VVC visits for new patients (OR, 4.7).
In conclusion, it was found that using a health‐system approach helps inform providers, improve satisfaction, and affect the care of Veterans with rheumatic disease positively.