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Impact of Covid-19 emergency on rehabilitation services for Multiple Sclerosis: An international RIMS survey

HumanInsight Impact of Covid-19 emergency on rehabilitation services for Multiple Sclerosis: An international RIMS survey

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2022 Sep 15;67:104179. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2022.104179. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Covid-19 pandemic greatly impacted on the healthcare systems worldwide with negative consequences on several aspects of clinical populations. For neurological chronic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), rehabilitation activities have been suspended or postponed during the pandemic. Rehabilitation is crucial for people with MS (PwMS) because it promotes recovery from relapses and maximizes opportunities for social participation. To better understand the impact of Covid-19 emergency on rehabilitation services for MS, the European network for rehabilitation in MS (RIMS) disseminated a survey to healthcare professionals (HPs) and representatives of the MS rehabilitation services (RSs), to explore the two different perspectives on the delivery of rehabilitation in usual circumstances and during the Covid-19 emergency.

METHODS: The online survey was distributed from July 9th to September 20th, 2020. Besides general information on the responders (e.g. location of center, and memebership to RIMS), information was collected on usual service delivery (e.g. settings, specialities, and types of treatment), the impact of Covid-19 circumstances (e.g. restrictions, use of personal protective equipment, and impact on work), and the use of technologiesin rehabilitation.

RESULTS: Twenty-two representatives of MS rehabilitation services (RSs)and 143 health care professionals (HPs) responded. Most of RSs and HPs worked in services specialized for MS including a mixture of all usual rehabilitation settings (i.e. inpatient, outpatient and community setting). The majority of services adopted a multidisciplinary framework, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, social service, speech and language therapy, psychological support, dietary interventions, medical management, vocational rehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitaton. Overall, most of responders indicated they did not use technologies in their practice (e.g. for treatment or assessment). However, depending on the type of technology a low-to-medium percentage of responders declared to use some technologies before Covid-19 crisis (5-55% for RSs and 12-53% for HPs) and a low percentage planned the use after pandemic (0-14% for RSs and 1-10% for HPs). Moreover, for the responders the most feasible interventions deliverable through tele-rehabilitation were psychological support and dietary interventions, with psychological support considered the most necessary intervention to be remotely implemented. Moderate feasibility (30-60%) was reported for hands-off interventions (e.g. aerobic exercise and cognitive rehabilitation) whereas low feasibility (<30%) was reported for hands-on interventions. Feasibility was especially low when tools were used that are not adaptable at-home (e.g. hyperbaric oxygen therapy).

CONCLUSION: The Covid-19 pandemic has stimulated the MS healthcare professionals to find new solutions to deliver alternative interventions to PwMS. In this context, the role of telemedicine is crucial to continue rehabilitation services at home, and limit exposure to infection. However, most of healthcare professionals have not incorporated the use of technologies. Therefore, the implementation of digital health solutions in the clinical practice needs more attention towards education on the potentials of technologies for rehabilitation and simplification of the national healthcare system reimbursement procedures for the rehabilitation technologies use.

PMID:36130457 | DOI:10.1016/j.msard.2022.104179

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