The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent effects on healthcare systems is having a significant effect on the management of long-term autoimmune conditions. The aim of this study was to assess the problems faced by patients with idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM).
An anonymized eSurvey was carried out with a focus on effects on disease control, continuity of medical care, drug procurance and prevalent fears in the patient population.
Of the 608 participants (81.1% female, median (S.D.) age 57 (13.9) years), dermatomyositis was the most frequent subtype (247, 40.6%). Patients reported health-related problems attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic (n = 195, 32.1%); specifically 102 (52.3%) required increase in medicines, and 35 (18%) required hospitalization for disease-related complications. Over half (52.7%) of the surveyed patients were receiving glucocorticoids and/or had underlying cardiovascular risk factors (53.8%), placing them at higher risk for severe COVID-19. Almost one in four patients faced hurdles in procuring medicines. Physiotherapy, critical in the management of IIM, was disrupted in 214 (35.2%). One quarter (159, 26.1%) experienced difficulty in contacting their specialist, and 30 (4.9%) were unable to do so. Most (69.6%) were supportive of the increased use of remote consultations to maintain continuity of medical care during the pandemic.
This large descriptive study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has incurred a detrimental effect on continuity of medical care for many patients with IIM. There is concern that delays and omissions in clinical care may potentially translate to poorer outcomes in the future.