An increase in the use of telemedicine, delays in x-ray scanning, an interruption to the supply of medications, and a reduction in parenteral medication delivery has been observed in the management of osteoporosis during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a study published in Osteoporosis International.
Although access to the online Fracture Risk Assessment Tool used in osteoporosis management decreased by nearly 60% during the COVID-19 pandemic, the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the care, assessment, and management of osteoporosis has not yet been evaluated.
To assess this, researchers analyzed survey data from 209 healthcare providers in 53 countries. The survey collected information regarding provider location and specialty as well as what changes to osteoporosis risk assessment, telemedicine use, medication access, and electronic health record (EHR) utilization providers had experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. The researchers sent the survey to a total of 400 healthcare providers who were members of the National Osteoporosis Foundation or the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
More than a quarter (28%) of respondents were from Europe, 24% from North America, 19% from the Asia-Pacific region, 17% from the Middle East, and 12% were from Latin America. Most respondents were physicians (85%). Respondents varied in specialties, the most common being rheumatology (40%), endocrinology (22%), and orthopedics (15%); 1 in 3 respondents stated they performed consultations over the phone, and 1 in 5 conducted video consultations.
More than 20% of respondents reported conducting over 20 telemedicine appointments each week. Approximately 67% of respondents reported delays obtaining a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan. Nearly half of clinicians reported difficulty in arranging for appropriate osteoporosis medication. Nearly all respondents experienced greater time required for EHR charting or input than what was allotted before the pandemic.
The results of this study demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on osteoporosis assessment and treatment across the world. An increase in remote consultations, delays in assessment, and difficulties procuring the proper medications were the most obvious changes. Although the long-term impact of COVID-19 on chronic disease management is unknown, it has made it difficult to maintain appropriate levels of care in the short term, particularly to individuals at greater risk for COVID-19.
Limitations to this study include the reliance on self-reported data.
Future research on the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on osteoporosis care, assessment, and management are warranted.
Fuggle NR, Singer A, Gill C, et al. How has COVID-19 affected the treatment of osteoporosis? An IOF-NOF-ESCEO global survey. Osteoporosis Int. Published online February 8, 2021. doi:10.1007/s00198-020-05793-3