PURPOSE: Restricted access to rehabilitative care due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic may affect the participation of cancer survivors and risks progression of the underlying disease. The aim of our analyses was to examined the extent to which cancer rehabilitations in Germany decreased due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
METHODS: Data were retrieved from the German Pension Insurance which is the main provider for medical rehabilitation in Germany. We used monthly cross-sectional data on the utilization of cancer rehabilitation (Ca-rehab-services according to section 15 for working-aged people or section 31 social security code VI for pensioners) in 2019 and 2020. We used a difference-in-differences model to determine the reduction in rehabilitation utilization attributable to the pandemic and reported incidence rate ratios (IRR).
RESULTS: We included 146,924 cancer rehabilitations in 2019 and 113,117 cancer rehabilitations in 2020. Compared to the previous year, the nationwide decline in cancer rehabilitations was greatest in April 2020 (63.2%). Utilization of cancer rehabilitation was reduced by 11.5% for benefits according to section 15 social security code VI (IRR=0.885; 95% CI: 0.864 to 0.906) and by 26.5% for benefits according to section 31 (IRR=0.735; 95% CI: 0.717 to 0.754) due to the pandemic. For pensioners the decline in utilization was more pronounced in Western Germany than in Eastern Germany and greater for non-post-acute rehabilitations than for post-acute rehabilitations.
CONCLUSION: The analyses show a pandemic-related decline in cancer rehabilitations, especially in cancer rehabilitation services for pensioners. Failure to seek medical rehabilitation, through which physical and psychological recovery and relief from disease and treatment side effects can be achieved, will have a lasting impact on the participation for many cancer survivors. Repeated monitoring of work ability and health of chronically ill people could generate necessary data to clarify why people in need of rehabilitation have avoided seeking medical rehabilitation and how they can be supported.
Research Areas and Centers
- Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)
Coronavirus related work
- Research on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19