Telemedicine was widely used by Americans with multiple sclerosis (MS) during the pandemic, and many were happy with the results, a new study finds.
"The findings suggest that telehealth services were well liked during the pandemic. Because many individuals with MS have physical disability that may make travel more difficult, temporary expansions of telehealth coverage should be made permanent after the pandemic in order to expand access and reduce health care disparities," said lead author Michelle Chen. She is a core member of Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and neurology instructor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
MS is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder and the leading cause of non-injury-related disability among young and middle-aged adults.
People with MS require regular medical care, so health care providers were concerned about how medical facility closures and social distancing measures during the early stages of the pandemic would affect the health of their MS patients.
For the study, the researchers used online survey data collected between September and October 2020 to assess rates of health care disruptions - such as missing or canceling appointments and experiencing delays - and the use of telehealth for medical and mental health care of people with and without MS.
Rates of telehealth appointments were nearly twice as high as in-person visits for medical care and more than five times higher than in-person visits for mental health care, the investigators found.
And, according to the study published online recently in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, people with MS were more likely to use telehealth services than people without MS.
"The current study significantly contributes to our understanding of health care utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic," study corresponding author Helen Genova, a research assistant professor at Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School, said in a Rutgers news release.
For more on MS, go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, March 1, 2022