Management of asthma in primary care in the changing context of the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative longitudinal study with patients.
Santillo M., Tonkin-Crine S., Wang K., Butler CC., Wanat M.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected asthma monitoring in primary care, but exploration of patients' views and their experiences of managing their asthma and seeking help from primary care during the pandemic has been limited. AIM: To investigate patients' experiences of asthma management in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative longitudinal study using semi-structured interviews with patients from four GP practices across diverse regions including Thames Valley, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, and North West Coast. METHOD: Interviews were undertaken with patients with asthma, who were usually managed in primary care. The interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed, and analysed using inductive temporal thematic analysis and a trajectory approach. RESULTS: Forty-six interviews were conducted with 18 patients over an 8-month period that covered contrasting stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients felt less vulnerable as the pandemic subsided, but the process of making sense of risk was dynamic and influenced by multiple factors. Patients relied on self-management strategies, but felt that routine asthma reviews should still have been conducted during the pandemic and highlighted that they had limited opportunities to discuss their asthma with health professionals. Patients with well-controlled symptoms felt that remote reviews were largely satisfactory, but still thought face-to-face reviews were necessary for certain aspects, such as physical examination and patient-led discussions of sensitive or broader issues associated with asthma, including mental health. CONCLUSION: The dynamic nature of patients' perception of risk throughout the pandemic highlighted the need for greater clarity regarding personal risk. Having an opportunity to discuss their asthma is important to patients, even when access to face-to-face consultations in primary care is more restricted than usual.