Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patterns of outpatient cardiovascular care

Am Heart J. 2021 Jan:231:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2020.10.074. Epub 2020 Nov 1.


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic brought about abrupt changes in the way health care is delivered, and the impact of transitioning outpatient clinic visits to telehealth visits on processes of care and outcomes is unclear.

Methods: We evaluated ordering patterns during cardiovascular telehealth clinic visits in the Duke University Health System between March 15 and June 30, 2020 and 30-day outcomes compared with in-person visits in the same time frame in 2020 and in 2019.

Results: Within the Duke University Health System, there was a 33.1% decrease in the number of outpatient cardiovascular visits conducted in the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the same time period in 2019. As a proportion of total visits initially booked, 53% of visits were cancelled in 2020 compared to 35% in 2019. However, patients with cancelled visits had similar demographics and comorbidities in 2019 and 2020. Telehealth visits comprised 9.3% of total visits initially booked in 2020, with younger and healthier patients utilizing telehealth compared with those utilizing in-person visits. Compared with in-person visits in 2020, telehealth visits were associated with fewer new (31.6% for telehealth vs 44.6% for in person) or refill (12.9% vs 15.6%, respectively) medication prescriptions, electrocardiograms (4.3% vs 31.4%), laboratory orders (5.9% vs 21.8%), echocardiograms (7.3% vs 98%), and stress tests (4.4% vs 6.6%). When adjusted for age, race, and insurance status, those who had a telehealth visit or cancelled their visit were less likely to have an emergency department or hospital encounter within 30 days compared with those who had in-person visits (adjusted rate ratios (aRR) 0.76 [95% 0.65, 0.89] and aRR 0.71 [95% 0.65, 0.78], respectively).

Conclusions: In response to the perceived risks of routine medical care affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, different phenotypes of patients chose different types of outpatient cardiology care. A better understanding of these differences could help define necessary and appropriate mode of care for cardiology patients.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care* / methods
  • Ambulatory Care* / organization & administration
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Cardiology / trends
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / therapy
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States / epidemiology