Clinic visits not tied to high risk of getting Covid-19: Study

A US study of pregnant patients during the pandemic has found that in-person health care visits were not an important risk factor for contracting the Covid-19 infection and necessary in-person care was safely performed in the hospitals.

In an analysis of the data collected, a team of investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found no association between the number of in-person health care visits and risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 in Massachusetts.

“One major concern in obstetrics, but also in general medicine, is that patients are avoiding necessary medical care because of fear of contracting Covid-19 in a health care setting, but there was no indication that in-person health care affects risk of infection,” said Sharon Reale from the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.

While some patients could benefit from virtual visits via telemedicine during the spring, pregnant patients are a unique population.

Many require multiple, in-person visits for measurements, exams and lab tests to ensure the health of both mother and baby or babies.

To conduct their study, Reale and colleagues used a case-control approach in which patients who tested positive (cases) were matched to those who tested negative (controls) based on gestational age, race/ethnicity, insurance type and the rate of Covid-19 in the patients’ zip code.

The team also adjusted for age, body mass index and essential worker occupation.

Of close to 3,000 women who delivered during the study period, 111 patients tested positive.

On average, patients who tested positive attended 3.1 visits in person (with a range of 0 to 10 visits); patients who tested negative attended an average of 3.3 visits in person (with a range of 0 to 16 visits).

The authors said in the study published in the journal JAMA, that there was no meaningful association between in-person visits and infection among the patients studied.

“Future studies will be needed to confirm if the findings extend to other patients.

“Results will need to be replicated outside of obstetrics, but this should be reassuring and indicate that necessary and important care should be done and can be done safely,” said Reale.

The study provides important evidence that we can do in-person visits safely.

“Our findings should be reassuring for our obstetrical patients that when they come to the hospital for appointments, they are not increasing their risk of infection,” the authors wrote.