Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Nov 9;7:568201. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.568201. eCollection 2020.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the “virtual” telemedicine has become a critical substitute for patient-provider interactions. However, virtual encounters often face challenges in the care of patients in high-risk categories such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. In this study, we explore the patient’s satisfaction and the practical effects of a newly established telemedicine program on CKD patients’ care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a prior version of an online patient care platform established in 2017, we developed a customized and improved online telemedicine program designed to specifically address the challenges emerging from the pandemic. This included an online, smart phone-based strategy for triage and medical care delivery and psychological support. We invited a total of 278 CKD patients to join the new platform during the pandemic. The subjects in group A were patients utilizing our old online CKD system and were historical users registered at least 3 months before the pandemic. A pilot survey interrogating medical and psychological conditions was conducted. Feedback on the program as well as a psychological assessment were collected after 1 month. In total, 181 patients showed active responses to the program, with 289 person-time medical consultations occurring during the study. The virtual care program provided a rapid triage for 17% (30 out of 181) patients, with timely referral to in-patient medical encounters for their worsening medical conditions or severe psychological problems. Nearly all patients (97.4%) believed the program was helpful. The number of symptoms (OR 1.309, 95%CI 1.113-1.541; P = 0.001) and being enrolled during the pandemic (OR 3.939, 95% CI 1.174-13.221; P = 0.026) were associated with high stress. During the follow-up, the high-stress CKD group at baseline showed a significant decrease in avoidance score (6.9 ± 4.7 vs. 9.8 ± 1.9, P = 0.015). In conclusion, during the pandemic, we established an online telemedicine care program for CKD patients that provides a rapid triage function, effective CKD disease management, and potentially essential psychological support.