Physician Views: Most European, US physicians far from satisfied with coronavirus testing strategies

FirstWord Pharma has conducted another short poll of 385 general practitioners, infectious disease specialists and pulmonologists based in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US to ascertain how well coordinated their respective healthcare systems are to cope with the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak.

You can access our earlier poll – asking physicians how the outbreak will impact their medical practice – here.

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Overall feedback indicates that most physicians are moderately to more-than-moderately confident in the procedures that have been put in place, which are designed to allow their healthcare systems to cope with the outbreak.

Only 6% of all physicians polled said they had no confidence in the measures being put in place, while 18% described themselves as having significant confidence in government-led initiatives.

Breakdown of responses by country provides some valuable and intriguing insights.

For example, physicians based in Italy – which is the European country currently most affected by the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak by some margin – indicated that they are more confident than their European or US counterparts; feedback that presumably reflects the more drastic measures put in place by the government this week.

At the other end of the spectrum, physicians in the UK are notably less confident than their counterparts in France, Germany and Spain. This may reflect the slower adoption of some measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the UK, which has been defended by the UK government. As of March 12, the UK had also recorded fewer cases of COVID-19 compared to the other countries included in our poll. [Note: our sample also includes fewer respondents from the UK; just 6% of all respondents].

By comparison, US respondents appear less confident than European physicians (excluding the UK) in the measures being implemented to support their healthcare system. In particular there has been widespread criticism of low testing rates for COVID-19 in the US versus other countries (see below also).

The chart below can be used to analyse responses by country.

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Similarly, most physicians we polled appear to view coordination efforts at the national level – for current and planned response to the outbreak – as being somewhere between poor and excellent.

Once again, physicians in Italy – which is more advanced in its strategy to slow the outbreak – gave more positive feedback, with a fifth of respondents describing national level coordination efforts as excellent. By comparison, 11% of French physicians and 10% of Spanish physicians said coordination efforts in their countries were excellent, as did even a fewer proportion of respondents in Germany, the UK and the US.

Seventeen (17) percent of UK physicians described the coordinated national response to the outbreak as being poor, as did 14% and 10% of their counterparts in the US and Germany, respectively. Fewer US respondents (versus those in any other country) described the national-level response as being excellent, at just 6%.

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Access to information is critical given the speed at which the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak is both growing and evolving. In terms of feedback from all respondents, only 13% of physicians believe their needs are being fully met in terms of access to accurate and relevant information about the virus, the outbreak and how patients should be treated. Seven (7) percent of physicians said their needs in terms of access to information are not being met at all.

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Access to information also goes hand-in-hand with patient testing data in allowing physicians and other healthcare professionals to manage the provision of care. Only 5% of all the physicians we polled said they are fully satisfied with the testing strategy for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV 2) in the country in which they practice. A quarter of respondents said they are not satisfied at all with the various testing strategies that are being implemented.

Echoing frequent commentary in the media over the past week, US physicians are the least satisfied with patient testing strategies, followed by the UK. Meaningful levels of dissatisfaction are evident among French and German physicians, but less so among their Italian and Spanish counterparts.

Most physicians in the four European countries are at least moderately satisfied with testing strategies, though more than half of the US physicians we polled described themselves as being less than moderately satisfied (ranking their satisfaction level at 1 or 2 on a five-point scale).

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In turn, levels of satisfaction with the patient testing strategies that are being utilised to detect SARS-CoV 2 are likely to be shaped at least in part by the perception of how quick the authorities were in each country to officially detect and report the presence and community spread of the virus.

Seventy-three (73) percent and 72% of Italian and Spanish physicians, respectively, believe that community transmission of SARS-CoV 2 has been occurring undetected in their countries for longer than officially reported or recognised. Even more US physicians – 76% - believe that undetected community transmission has been occurring for a prolonged period in the US. The UK is the only country in which our poll was fielded where more than half of respondents don't believe that community transmission of SARS-CoV 2 was occurring undetected for any significant length of time.

To read more Physician Views Poll Results articles, click here.