The impact of COVID-19 and healthcare system changes on the well-being of rheumatic patients.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the healthcare systems. Many Polish outpatient clinics have been implementing telemedical consultations as a tool to ensure the continuity of care for patients with chronic diseases. The aim of the study was to evaluate patients’ satisfaction with telemedical appointments, as well as availability of the various medical services and patients’ well-being during the pandemic.An online-based questionnaire on the experience with telemedical consultations, availability of medical services and current state of health was conducted among Polish rheumatology patients approximately 6 months after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.The survey was completed by 107 respondents with a mean age of 41.52 ±14.33 years. The overall level of satisfaction from telemedical consultations, evaluated with a VAS 1-10 scale, was assessed as 6.23 ±3.04 for teleconsultations in primary healthcare units and 6.00 ±2.80 for rheumatology outpatient units. 42.99% of the respondents were in favour of maintaining telemedical appointments even after the pandemic. Incidences of reduced access to medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic were reported by 77.57% of the patients. Almost half of the respondents reported reduced accessibility to rheumatological care. An alarming decline in health self-esteem, evaluated with a VAS 1-10 scale, was noted from the average 6.37 ±1.92 before COVID-19 to the current rating of 5.78 ±1.91 (p = 0.0087).Polish rheumatology patients are moderately satisfied with the medical teleconsultations in primary health care units and rheumatology outpatient clinics. A substantial number of patients experienced deterioration of well-being as well as limited access to traditional healthcare services, including rheumatology care.

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Authors: Aleksandra Opinc, Olga Brzezińska, Joanna Makowska