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Examining the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare utilization among persons with chronic spinal cord injury/dysfunction: a population study


Study Design — A retrospective longitudinal cohort time-series analysis study.

Objectives — To examine healthcare utilization and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic in individuals with spinal cord injury/dysfunction (SCI/D).

Setting — Health administrative database in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — In 5754 individuals with SCI/D diagnosed from 2004-2014 and living in the community, healthcare utilization (physician visits, primary care visits, specialist visits, urologist visits, physiatrist visits, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospital admissions) and delivery (total, in-person, virtual) were determined at the (1) pre-pandemic period (March 2015 to February 2020), (2) initial pandemic onset period (March 2020-May 2020), and (3) pandemic period (June 2020 to March 2022). Autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling was conducted to determine the impact of the pandemic on monthly healthcare utilization and delivery.

Results — The initial pandemic onset period had a significant reduction of 24% in physicians (p = 0.0081), 35% in specialists (p < 0.0001), and 30% in urologist (p < 0.0001) visits, compared to pre-pandemic levels, with a partial recovery as the pandemic progressed. In April 2020, compared to the pre-pandemic period, a significant increase (p < 0.0001) in virtual visits for physicians, specialists, urologists, and primary care was found. The initial pandemic onset period had a 58% decrease in hospital admissions (p = 0.0011), compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Conclusion — Healthcare utilization dropped in the initial pandemic onset period as physicians, specialists, and urologists, as well as hospitalization visits decreased significantly (p < 0.05) versus pre-pandemic levels. Virtual visit increases compensated for in-person visit decreases as the pandemic progressed to allow for total visits to partially recover.



Senthinathan A, Tadrous M, Hussain S, Craven BC, Jaglal SB, Moineddin R, Shepherd J, Cadel L, Noonan VK, McKay S, Tu K, Guilcher SJT. Spinal Cord. 2023; Sep 2 [Epub ahead of print].

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