The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality across the world, and the numbers continue to rise. Amid this pandemic, clinicians still have to diagnose, assess, and treat patients for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 medical issues. This extremely contagious disease has brought upon new realities and posed significant challenges to the healthcare system and the practice of medicine.  To this end, CMHC conducted a survey of cardiometabolic clinicians to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on their practices as well as the sources they rely upon to keep themselves updated regarding COVID-19. 

Altogether, 60 clinicians responded to the survey, and the specialty spread was representative of those that manage patients with cardiometabolic disease or cardiometabolic risk, including primary care (32.20%), cardiology (20.34%), and endocrinology (20.34%), with the rest from critical care (5%) and diverse backgrounds (dieticians/nutritionists, integrative medicine, pharmacists, public health, etc – 21%).

As widely reported, it is imperative to quickly identify positive coronavirus patients through rapid testing, followed with immediate isolation to prevent spread. When asked about COVID-19 testing capacity, almost 42% responded that their institution or practice could only test a limited number of individuals, while 35% indicated that they are not able to test at all; only 15% said that they could test anyone. Interestingly, almost 75% indicated that their practice or institution has a protocol for COVID-19 testing, and the discrepancy in the numbers of individuals actually getting tested could be due to restrictions on testing asymptomatic individuals or due to testing shortages.

COVID-19 has generated fear and anxiety among patients and caregivers. Many patients are worried about their safety in clinics and, therefore, are more reluctant to visit them due to fear of contracting the virus. However, medical offices are very attentive to this outbreak and actively taking steps to safely manage and protect patients as well as clinical staff. To that end, we asked our participants the extent to which their practices have been impacted. Almost 50% of participants confirmed that, indeed, due to COVID-19, their practice has been severely affected due to this ongoing pandemic, and close to 80% indicated that in-person visits have been reduced. Furthermore, 56% indicated that they have experienced more patient questions, 32% reported that they or a member of their staff has been in self-quarantine, with 3% testing positive for COVID-19.  With regards to the broader impacts on the healthcare community, several issues were reported, including behaviors that can exacerbate cardiometabolic risk now and in the near future (poor lifestyle choices, increased isolation and stress), fear for the overall unpreparedness of the healthcare community to deal with the crisis

This pandemic has also led to the generation of numerous news, reports, and analyses on a constant basis causing ambiguity and uncertainty among clinicians, patients, and caregivers. Finding sources of credible and evidence-based information is becoming increasingly difficult. When asked what their go-to source of information on COVID-19 is, 28% of respondents said that they rely on peer-reviewed publications, 23% on medical news media, and 13% on regular news, whereas the rest (35%) depend on updates by their institutions. 64% responded that the media is adequately portraying the impacts of COVID-19.

As the numbers of COVID-19 cases are climbing every day around the world, it has led many to ask the obvious question: for how long will we feel the clinical impacts?  Almost 44% of our participants indicated that we are looking at a timeframe of 6-18 months, with 37% stating that it could last for 3-5 months, and only 15% reporting 1-2 months.

Taken together, the results of our survey suggest that COVID-19 has had tremendous impacts on the practice of cardiometabolic medicine and that these challenges will continue to be a factor in the near future.

Co-authored by Neha Agarwal, PhD & Shpetim Karandrea, PhD