Physician questions and concerns related to COVID-19: a content analysis of advice calls to a medico-legal helpline

CMAJ Open. 2022 Aug 2;10(3):E714-E720. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20210256. Print 2022 Jul-Sep.


Background: With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians have had concerns related to the impact of the pandemic on their practice of medicine. Our objective was to evaluate physician questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic by studying physician calls made to a medico-legal telephone helpline, and explore associations between the pattern of these calls and the temporal progression of the pandemic.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive study of calls related to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) from Jan. 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. Using content analysis, we classified calls into themes. Using a Poisson regression model, we tested for associations between the weekly numbers of physician calls related to COVID-19 and national rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Results: We analyzed 3810 COVID-19-related calls. The highest call volume was observed during the pandemic's early months and was widely distributed across the country. Call volume correlated with rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection during the pandemic's first wave (p = 0.002) but not across the entire study period. Call themes included virtual care (826 calls), the pandemic's effect on health care (1160 calls) and challenging patient interactions (1091 calls).

Interpretation: We observed high volumes of physician calls to a medico-legal helpline during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Our data provide insight into the questions and concerns of Canadian physicians, and serve as a contemporaneous account of the adaptability and resilience of physicians during this challenging time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Physicians*
  • SARS-CoV-2