The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the management of rheumatic disease: a national clinician-based survey

Rheumatol Int. 2022 Apr;42(4):601-608. doi: 10.1007/s00296-022-05102-7. Epub 2022 Feb 14.


This study aims to investigate the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the management of rheumatic diseases (RD). An online survey included 10 questions were designed to assess potential differences in rheumatology practice. The survey was conducted between March 2021 and June 2021. Marginal homogeneity test was used to compare frequencies of outpatient clinic patients between the pre-pandemic and pandemic. Other results were analyzed by descriptive statistics. One hundred three clinicians (75.7% in rheumatology practice for at least five years) responded to the survey. Almost 70% examined < 30 patients per day during the pandemic while nearly 70% examined ≥ 30 patients per day before the pandemic (p < 0.001). They indicated following reasons for decreasing outpatient clinic activity were concerns regarding COVID-19 transmission risk of the patients (95%) and the clinicians (53%), being able to supply chronic medications directly from the pharmacy (85%), lockdown (71%), limited outpatient appointments (64%) and using telemedicine (20%). The frequencies of rheumatology daily routine procedures were decreased as follows; patient hospitalization for diagnosing (80%) and treatment (78%), labial salivary gland biopsy (63%), Schirmer's test/salivary flow rate test (56%), nail bed video-capillaroscopy (52%), musculoskeletal ultrasonography (51%) and Pathergy test (50%). Clinicians hesitated to use rituximab (63%) mostly, followed by cyclophosphamide (53%), glucocorticoids (43%), tofacitinib (41%), mycophenolate mofetil (36%), and azathioprine (33%). In this first national survey, the prominent differences in the management of RD have decreased outpatient clinic activity, reduced rheumatology daily procedures, and hesitancy to use some rheumatic drugs.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pandemic; Rheumatic disease; Rheumatology practice; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine*