- 2022;25;427-439Cross-Sectional Study Evaluating Clinical & Psychological Impact of Limited Access to Healthcare in Chronic Pain Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Health Services Research
Moez Mithani, MD, Jeremy Benhamroun-Zbili, MD, Andrew Bloomfield, MD, Kishan Sitapara, MD, Arlette Paul, NP, Singh Nair, MD, Shagun Mohan, MD, Amaresh Vydyanathan, MD, Safwan Zar, MD, and Naum Shaparin, MD.
BACKGROUND: COVID-19 quarantine measures have created new challenges in the delivery of medical care, especially in the realm of medical and interventional chronic pain management. This study evaluated the effect of COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine measures on symptoms of pain and anxiety, as well as substance abuse and health care engagement in patients with chronic pain and the role of the clinic’s virtual assessment initiatives in managing these patients.
METHODS: A 24-question cross-sectional survey was conducted with patients with chronic pain seen at the Montefiore Medical Center Comprehensive Pain Clinic from June 2020 through July 2020. The survey was administered to 552 high-utilizer patients via telephone, evaluating domains such as pain, anxiety, substance use, and health care engagement. The questions were quantitively assessed on a Likert scale or a numerical rating scale. We used descriptive statistics to report our results.
RESULTS: Of the 1,023 patients identified as high utilizers of the pain clinic, 552 patients participated in the survey. The median (25th-75th percentile) pain score reported was 7 (5-9) for all responders. Approximately 50% of the patients reported that they were anxious about their pain and somewhat or very concerned that their pain would be uncontrolled during the pandemic. Further, the severity of the pain reported was associated with sleep, appetite, and mood changes.
In our cohort, 95% of all patients denied using alcohol, 92% denied using marijuana, and 98% denied using other recreational drugs to manage their pain during the pandemic. In addition, just more than three-fourths (79%) of all patients reported needing to speak with their health care provider during the pandemic.
CONCLUSIONS: The survey conducted among high-utilizers demonstrated that patients who remained engaged with their health care team reported minimal concerns regarding chronic pain and associated symptoms during the COVID-19 quarantine period. In addition, the early implementation of virtual consults in the pain clinic may have contributed to mitigating patient concerns. Finally, the study also identified the importance of outreach and patient education on the availability and utilization of telemedicine services. Consequently, it is reasonable to implement virtual assessments and visits alongside other education outreach methods to engage patients with chronic pain who frequently utilize chronic pain health care resources.
KEY WORDS: Chronic pain, pandemic, COVID, quarantine, substance abuse, anxiety, telemedicine, patient satisfaction, survey, health care engagement