Experiences of individuals affected by Covid-19: A qualitative study among patients from German family practice settings

Leonard Kierer, Sandra Parisi, Prof. Dr. Ildikó Gágyor

Keywords: Covid-19, ambulant, GP, family practice, holistic, experience, qualitative study

General Practitioners accompany a wide range of patients affected by Covid-19. The experience of these patients can contribute to a holistic understanding of what Covid-19 means to affected individuals and to identifying possibilities to improve patient-centred prevention, treatment, care and follow-up.

Research questions:
The study aimed at investigating the course of disease and its consequences, individual disease perceptions, barriers to diagnosis and treatment as well as patients' behaviour, wishes and expectations.

This study was part of a country-wide mixed-methods study, consisting of anonymous quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews conducted by phone. Survey recruitment was organized through General Practitioners. Adults patients that had gone through symptomatic Covid-19 were eligible to participate. Patients interested in qualitative interviews then directly contacted the study team. Content analysis aligned to Kuckartz was performed on interview transcripts.

24 interviews were conducted among (14/24) women and (10/24) men across all age-groups. Disease onset ranged from March to December 2020 and disease severity from mild to critical. Participants came from rural, semi-urban and urban areas.
Participants described challenges during the diagnostic process and insecurities about test results. Distress was associated with living alone, fear inducing media reports and exaggerated media consumption, stigma and quarantine-related access barriers to clinical monitoring and hospital admission. Family support, access to a garden, a positive mindset and creative individual solutions were perceived facilitators. Constant contact persons within the health care system were perceived beneficial. Emerging themes related to doubts on long term complications and follow up, immunity, managing guilt of having infected others, as well as to discrepancies between perceived and objective disease severity.

Our study identified several barriers and facilitators experienced by Covid-19-patients that should be taken into account when designing measures for patient-centred care and follow-up.

Points for discussion:
perceived severity

quarantine-related access barriers

post-disease checkup possibilities & limitations