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Pandemic effect on healthcare use and death in adults with epilepsy: a population study


Objectives — We conducted a population-based study using Ontario health administrative data to describe trends in healthcare utilization and mortality in adults with epilepsy during the first pandemic year (March 2020–March 2021) compared to historical data (2016–2019). We also investigated if changes in outpatient visits and diagnostic testing during the first pandemic year were associated with increased risk for hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) visits, or death.

Methods — Projected monthly visit rates (per 100,000 people) for outpatient visits, electroencephalography, magnetic resonance, computed tomography, all-cause ED visits, hospitalizations, and mortality were calculated based on historical data by fitting monthly time series autoregressive integrated moving-average models. Two-way interactions were calculated using Quasi-Poisson models.

Results — In adults with epilepsy during the first quarter of the pandemic, we demonstrated a reduction in all-cause outpatient visits, diagnostic testing, ED visits and hospitalizations, and a temporary increase in mortality (observed rates of 355.8 vs projected 308.8, 95% CI: 276.3–345.1). By the end of the year, outpatient visits increased (85,535.4 vs 76,620.6, 95% CI: 71,546.9–82,059.4), and most of the diagnostic test rates returned to the projected. The increase in the rate of all-cause mortality during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic, was greater during months with the lower frequency of diagnostic tests than months with higher frequency (interaction p-values <.0001).

Conclusion — We described the impact of the pandemic on healthcare utilization and mortality in adults with epilepsy during the first year. We demonstrated that access to relevant diagnostic testing is likely important for this population while planning restrictions on non-urgent health services.



Vargas ME, Gershon AS, Pugliese M, Gotfrit RJ, Manuel D, Sadatsafavi M, Stukel TA, To T, Kendall CE, Thavorn K, Robillard R, Kendzerska T. Can J Neurol Sci. 2023; Dec 20 [Epub ahead of print].

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