Experiences of patients with chronic diseases of access to multidisciplinary care during COVID-19 in South Australia

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Abstract

Objective: This study investigated the experience of patients with chronic diseases regarding access to and utilisation of multidisciplinary care during COVID-19 in South Australia. Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with 30 patients with chronic conditions attending nine general practices in metropolitan Adelaide. Supplementary data were obtained from the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) to compare health services activity data provided by different health professionals before and after COVID-19 (from January 2019 to June 2020). Results: There was variation in access to different health services by patients with chronic conditions during COVID-19. The introduction of telehealth facilitated continuity of general practitioner (GP) services, with a high level of satisfaction among patients. Changes in medicines regulation, including the home delivery of medications, enabled timely access to medications for patients. The use of telehealth was less common for specialist and particularly allied health services. Dental check-ups that are important for the management of some chronic conditions were disrupted the most during COVID-19. Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that the policy measures introduced in Australia provided an opportunity to maintain multidisciplinary care for patients with chronic diseases during COVID-19. GPs, as core members of the primary healthcare team, as well as pharmacy and pathology services, were highly accessible. Telehealth was less accessed for chronic care services provided by specialists and allied health professionals. What is known about the topic?: Access to multidisciplinary care is critical to ensure continuity and quality of care for patients with chronic health conditions. Evidence suggests disruptions in health services can occur during pandemics. To continue access to routine care, the Australian Government introduced several policy initiatives during COVID-19 to enhance access to multidisciplinary care. What does this paper add?: Telehealth policy was particularly effective in facilitating patients' access to general practice services during COVID-19 particularly those services that did not need physical examinations. This policy complemented changes in medicines regulations that enabled timely and convenient access to medications for patients with chronic conditions. Allied health services, as important elements of multidisciplinary care, were more likely to be disrupted during COVID-19. What are the implications for practitioners?: Continuation of telehealth services is likely to enhance access to general practice services. The acceptability and use of telehealth for allied health services may require more flexibility, and training for both practitioners and patients.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2021

Keywords

  • Australia
  • chronic disease management
  • consumers
  • COVID-19
  • health services
  • multidisciplinary care
  • pandemic
  • qualitative study
  • telehealth

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