How COVID-19 Changed Rheumatology in Latin America

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Rheumatology in Latin America looks a little different during COVID-19.

As with clinicians around the world, rheumatologists in Latin America have seen drastic changes since the pandemic began. In-person appointments have become less frequent, telehealth visits have increased, and many patients and providers have had to readjust treatment plans.

New Data on Rheumatology in Latin America

A recent study published in The Journal of Rheumatology offers a closer look at these trends. Surveyed rheumatologists reported that:

  • In-person care plummeted. Face-to-face appointments saw a decrease from an average of 27 hours a week to 10 hours a week during the pandemic
  • Adherence to treatment declined. Nearly 50% of respondents reported a reduction in patient adherence to medication
  • Virtual care became vital. Telehealth was used by 78.9% of the respondents, with the most common method of communication being video calls (50.6%). Around 85.7% of the respondents agreed that telehealth was a valid strategy during the pandemic
  • Access suffered. According to 88.8% of the physicians surveyed, patients who were taking antimalarials had difficulty accessing these drugs during the pandemic

The survey included 1,097 rheumatologists from across Latin America who are members of the Pan American League of Rheumatology Associations.

Telehealth, Access & Adapting to Pandemic Conditions

As the results suggest, telehealth played an important role in allowing for continued medical care during the pandemic. Virtual appointments could not, however, address all the complexities of providing treatment during a pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on rheumatology practice in Latin America, challenging both clinicians and patients. Clinicians had to find new ways of providing treatment for their patients while also balancing the mitigation of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 infections continue to strain Latin America’s communities and health care systems, new and adaptive practices will continue to play an important role in ensuring that patients can access and maintain the care they need.