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Telemedicine for Children with Sickle cell Anemia in a Resource‐Poor Setting during COVID‐19 Pandemic: An Observational Study


Anthony Chibueze Nlemadim
Jacintha Banku Okoi-Obuli
Friday Akwagiobe Odey
Martin Madu Meremikwu

Abstract

Background: The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has continued to disrupt medical care among patients with sickle cell anemia (SCA). The city lockdowns and restrictions to minimize virus transmission in countries have created gaps in the optimal management of children with SCA.


Aim: The aim of this study was to access the clinical experience in the use of mobile health telemedicine for the care of children with SCA.


Methods: At the start of national lockdown, text messages were sent to parents of children with SCA who are attending a tertiary hospital in Nigeria. The message included advice to call consultants in the pediatric hemato-oncology unit whenever their wards were sick or due for a routine clinic visit. Information obtained include date of call or text message, complaints, intervention prescribed, and feedback from the parents.


Results: There were 115 calls and 43 texts from the parents from April through July 2020. The proportion of calls increased from 16.5% to 33.9%, while texts increased from 23.3% to 30.2% over the months. Responses were significant (P = 0.047). Respiratory symptoms(40%) were the most common complaints. The most frequent interventions were counseling (59%) and drug prescriptions (31%) with the resolution of most symptoms by day 7 (P < 0.001). Parents (60.8%) preferred phone interactions across the months (P < 0.05). No confirmed case of SARS‐CoV‐2 was recorded.


Conclusion: Mobile health telemedicine is a beneficial tool in the maintenance of care and possibly prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection among children with SCA in a resource-limited region. Efforts should be made by stakeholders to institute and promulgate telemedicine during this pandemic.