Social Distancing, Health Care Disruptions, Telemedicine Use, and Treatment Interruption During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Patients With or Without Autoimmune Rheumatic Disease

Academic Article


  • Background: We aimed to compare concerns, social distancing, health care disruptions, and telemedicine use in patients with autoimmune rheumatic disease (ARD) and non-ARD and to evaluate factors associated with immunomodulatory medication interruptions. Methods: Patients in a multistate community rheumatology practice network completed surveys from April 2020 to May 2020. Adults with common ARD (rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus) or non-ARD (gout, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis) were evaluated. Concerns about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), social distancing, health care disruptions, and telemedicine use were compared in patients with ARD versus non-ARD, adjusting for demographics, rural residence, and zipcode-based measures of socioeconomic status and COVID-19 activity. Factors associated with medication interruptions were assessed in patients with ARD. Results: Surveys were completed by 2319/36 193 (6.4%) patients with non-ARD and 6885/64 303 (10.7%) with ARD. Concerns about COVID-19 and social distancing behaviors were similar in both groups, although patients receiving a biologic or Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor reported greater concerns and were more likely to avoid friends/family, stores, or leaving the house. Patients with ARD were less likely to avoid office visits (45.2% vs. 51.0%, odds ratio [OR] 0.79 [0.70-0.89]) with similar telemedicine use. Immunomodulatory medications were stopped in 9.7% of patients with ARD, usually (86.9%) without a physician recommendation. Compared with patients with an office visit, the likelihood of stopping medication was higher for patients with a telemedicine visit (OR 1.54 [1.19-1.99]) but highest for patients with no visits (OR 2.26 [1.79-2.86]). Conclusion: Patients with ARD and non-ARD reported similar concerns about COVID-19 and similar social distancing behaviors. Missed office visits were strongly associated with interruptions in immunomodulatory medication.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • George MD; Baker JF; Banerjee S; Busch H; Curtis D; Danila MI; Gavigan K; Kirby D; Merkel PA; Munoz G
  • Start Page

  • 381
  • End Page

  • 389
  • Volume

  • 3
  • Issue

  • 6