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Sat, 20.04.24

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May 2022
Herman Avner Cohen MD, Maya Gerstein MD, Vered Shkalim Zemer MD, Sophia Heiman MD, Yael Richenberg MD, Eyal Jacobson MD, and Oren Berkowitz PhD PA-C

Background: On 18 March 2020, the Israeli Health Ministry issued lockdown orders to mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Objectives: To assess the association of lockdown orders on telemedicine practice and the effect of social distancing on infectious diseases in a primary care community pediatric clinic as well as the rate of referrals to emergency departments (ED) and trends of hospitalization.

Methods: Investigators performed a retrospective secondary data analysis that screened for visits in a large pediatric center from 1 January to 31 May 2020. Total visits were compared from January to December 2020 during the same period in 2019. Visits were coded during the first lockdown as being via telemedicine or in-person, and whether they resulted in ED referral or hospitalization. Month-to-month comparisons were performed as well as percent change from the previous year.

Results: There was a sharp decline of in-person visits (24%) and an increase in telemedicine consultations (76%) during the first lockdown (p < 0.001). When the lockdown restrictions were eased, there was a rebound of 50% in-person visits (p < 0.05). There was a profound decrease of visits for common infectious diseases during the lockdown period. Substantial decreases were noted for overall visits, ED referrals, and hospitalizations in 2020 compared to 2019.

Conclusions: COVID-19 had a major impact on primary care clinics, resulting in fewer patient-doctor encounters, fewer overall visits, fewer ED referrals, and fewer hospitalizations

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