To describe the effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on Latin American rheumatologists from a professional, economic, and occupational point of view.
We conducted an observational cross-sectional study using an online survey sent to rheumatologists of each non–English-speaking country member of the Pan American League of Rheumatology Associations (PANLAR). A specific questionnaire was developed.
Our survey included 1097 rheumatologists from 19 Latin American countries. Median (IQR) age of respondents was 48 (40–59) years and 618 (56.3%) were female. Duration of practice since graduation as a rheumatologist was 17 years, and 585 (53.3%) were aged < 50 years. Most rheumatologists worked in private practice (81.8%) and almost half worked in institutional outpatient centers (55%) and inpatient care (49.9%). The median number of weekly hours (IQR) of face-to-face practice before the pandemic was 27 (15–40) hours, but was reduced to 10 (5–20) hours during the pandemic. Telehealth was used by 866 (78.9%) respondents during the pandemic. Most common methods of communication were video calls (555; 50.6%), telephone calls (499; 45.5%), and WhatsApp voice calls (423; 38.6%). A reduction in monthly wages was reported by 946 (86.2%) respondents. Consultation fees also were reduced and 88 (8%) rheumatologists stated they had lost their jobs. A reduction in patient adherence to medication was reported by nearly 50% of respondents. Eighty-one (7.4%) rheumatologists received a COVID-19 diagnosis and 7 (8.6%) of them were hospitalized.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped rheumatology practice in Latin America and has had a profound effect on rheumatologists’ behaviors and clinical practice.