Diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic: are people getting access to the right level of care?
BMC Health Services Research
Introduction: Avoidance of health services, in particular hospital and community services, is problematic for people with diabetes. Evidence has demonstrated that such missed attendances are associated with worse health, faster declines in functioning, and higher rates of mortality long-term. This paper investigated the impact of the pandemic on healthcare access across community and hospital care, including Virtual Care (VC) using several large datasets of General Practice (GP) and hospital services in western Sydney. Methods: A retrospective cohort study using a time-series database of 173,805 HbA1c tests done at Blacktown and Mt Druitt hospitals and 1.8 million recorded consultations at GP clinics in the region was undertaken. Results: The average rate of diabetes in Emergency Department fell from 17.8% pre-pandemic to 11% after January 2020 (p < 0.001). This rate varied substantially over time, and correlated well with large outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state. Conversely, attendances of people with diabetes to GP clinics, especially using VC services, increased substantially over the pandemic period. Discussion/Conclusion: During the pandemic there was a substantial avoidance of hospital care by patients with diabetes. However, this may have been replaced by VC offered in the community for those with less severe diseases.
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National Health and Medical Research Council