The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian FLSs and Innovative Measures Taken to Improve Patient Outcomes

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on healthcare services and FLSs have not been immune.  Many FLSs across the country have been temporarily suspended as their staff was redeployed to pandemic efforts.  Of those FLSs which remained operational, the FLS coordinators had to quickly adapt to the marked reduction (or total lack thereof) of other osteoporosis services such as BMD testing.

With dedication and innovation, FLS coordinators across Canada have faced this new challenge head on and have helped minimize the negative impacts of the pandemic on their fragility fracture patients. Shannon Falsetti is the FLS coordinator at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.  She indicates: “When our site was closed due to an outbreak, I was able to seamlessly work from home and complete virtual follow ups. Our IT department made sure I had appropriate access while still maintaining privacy and documentation policies”. 

Lack of access to BMD testing was of course a major consequence of the pandemic across this country.  FLS coordinators worked with Diagnostic Imaging services to facilitate rescheduling of many BMD tests that had to be cancelled.   

Ensuring that high risk patients are initiated and/or continued on the urgently needed osteoporosis treatment is always a priority for FLS coordinators.  For many patients on parenteral osteoporosis treatment, this posed some new and unexpected challenges as many of them were fearful of leaving their homes.  FLS coordinators helped find solutions for them which included coordinating a switch to an oral therapeutic option, arranging for local pharmacists to administer their injection or, in certain cases, helping patients learn how to self-inject using virtual communication tools.  

In these times of uncertainty, some patients needed reassurances and coordinators were able to explore fears and feelings with their patients and family. They also took this time to review the importance of fracture risk, share information regarding local public health recommendations and to determine some safety strategies to minimize the risk of Covid-19 exposure (e.g. home collections for lab work, home care or pharmacy delivery).

The goal for every FLS program is to identify fragility fracture patients, investigate the patient’s risk of future fractures, and initiate prescription therapy for those at high risk. With many FLSs now resuming this important work, fragility fracture patients who have access to an FLS are truly lucky to have such dedicated healthcare professionals providing them with the care they need to help them prevent future fractures.