The potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on patients with non-communicable diseases in Europe: consequences for healthy ageing.Aging Clin Exp Res. 2020 Jul; 32(7):1189-1194.AC
The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic have focused on containing SARS-CoV-2 infection and identifying treatment strategies. While controlling this communicable disease is of utmost importance, the long-term effect on individuals with non-communicable diseases (NCD) is significant. Although certain NCDs appear to increase the severity of COVID-19 and mortality risk, SARS-CoV-2 infection in survivors with NCDs may also affect the progression of their pre-existing clinical conditions. Infection containment measures will have substantial short- and long-term consequences; social distancing and quarantine restrictions will reduce physical activity and increase other unhealthy lifestyles, thus increasing NCD risk factors and worsening clinical symptoms. Vitamin D levels might decrease and there might be a rise in mental health disorders. Many countries have made changes to routine management of NCD patients, e.g., cancelling non-urgent outpatient visits, which will have important implications for NCD management, diagnosis of new-onset NCDs, medication adherence, and NCD progression. We may have opportunities to learn from this unprecedented crisis on how to leverage healthcare technologies and improve procedures to optimize healthcare service provision. This article discusses how the COVID-19 outbreak and related infection control measures could hit the most frail individuals, worsening the condition of NCD patients, while further jeopardizing the sustainability of the healthcare systems. We suggest ways to define an integrated strategy that could involve both public institutional entities and the private sector to safeguard frail individuals and mitigate the impact of the outbreak.