Impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare use in osteoarthritis: A population register-based study in Sweden

Ali Kiadaliri, Karin Magnusson, Aleksandra Turkiewicz, Andrea Dell'Isola, Jos Runhaar, Sita Bierma-Zeinstra, Martin Englund

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Objective: To investigate whether the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted healthcare consultations (HCC) and hospitalization among people with and without osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Using register data, we included individuals aged ≥35 years residing in Skåne region, Sweden, during 2009-2019 with (n ​= ​123,523) and without (n ​= ​552,412) a diagnosis of OA during January 1, 2009-December 31, 2019. We collected bi-weekly individual data on HCC/hospitalization between January and May for years 2017-2020. Treating the year 2020 as intervention and 2017-2019 as control as well as dividing data to pre- (January-February) and post-pandemic (March-May), we applied event study design to measure the dynamic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on HCC/hospitalization. We used fixed-effect Poisson regressions for estimation and subgroup analyses by sex, age, and comorbidity were conducted among OA patients.

Results: The impact of the pandemic on healthcare use was evident from mid-March 2020 (34-45%/12-25% reductions in in-person HCC/hospitalization) among people with OA relative to 2017-2019. Smaller reductions were seen in those without OA with 25-34%/8-16% reductions in in-person HCC/hospitalization. On contrary, there were increases in remote HCC following the pandemic (5-25% and 11-31% in people with and without OA, respectively). Among persons with OA, there were variations in the pandemic's effects by sex, age and comorbidity.

Conclusion: Despite no lockdown in Sweden there were substantial reductions in in-person healthcare use during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic with greater reductions among people with than without OA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100252
JournalOsteoarthritis and cartilage open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Foundation for Research in Rheumatology (FOREUM), the Greta and Johan Kock Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Österlund Foundation, and Governmental Funding of Clinical Research within National Health Service (ALF).

© 2022 The Author(s).


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