Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection has caused huge impacts on all of people’s lives and health systems. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, China was the first country to impose lockdown. We aimed to study the influence of COVID-19 on the outpatient visits of rheumatic patients in a non-outbreak area of China.
We selected three provincial or ministerial hospitals in Jinan, and collected the outpatient appointments data in rheumatology and immunology departments during the Shandong Province first-level public health emergency response period from 25 January 2020 to 8 March 2020.
In the early stage, the number of outpatient appointments in the rheumatology and immunology departments of the three provincial or ministerial hospitals were significantly reduced, and gradually restored in the late stage. It showed that in the face of major infectious diseases, strict quarantine measures with the cooperation of the public not only controls the epidemic in a short time, but also lifts the quarantine measures and opens general outpatient clinics in hospitals as soon as possible, thus minimizing the impact on other patients.
The impact on the western hospital was greater than that on the Chinese medicine hospital, and the impact on the back-up designated hospitals for COVID-19 was the greatest. Online appointment can reduce the risk of infection in outpatients, but not completely solve the follow-up problem of rheumatic patients. Telemedicine provides a new solution for both management of rheumatic patients and control of COVID-19.