“A lot of things stopped with COVID”: Screening Pregnant Women for Opioid Use and Related Conditions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published:November 06, 2022DOI:
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      We explored the impact of COVID-19 on universal screening programs for opioid use and related conditions among practicing clinicians or staff who work with pregnant patients.


      Semi-structured, in-depth qualitative interviews (n=15) were conducted with practicing clinicians or staff in West-Central Florida between May and October 2020, representing both a range of professions and clinical settings that serve pregnant patients. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and reviewed for accuracy. Independent coders conducted thematic content analysis iteratively in MaxQDA to identify emergent themes.


      Four main themes were identified: worsening health and life conditions of pregnant patients, impaired patient-provider interactions, lack of priority and resources, and conducting opioid screening remotely. Pregnant patients often faced worsening mental health, lack of connection with healthcare providers, and socioenvironmental factors that increased the risk of overdose and intimate partner violence. Healthcare providers and facilities faced an infectious disease pandemic that simultaneously increased mental burden and reduced resources. Telehealth improved access to healthcare for many, but also came with implementation challenges such as inadequate technology, the need to address barriers to developing rapport with patients, and difficulty with certain social screens.


      These themes describe facilitators of and barriers to implementing opioid and related screening programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increasing urgency of screening because of socioenvironmental factors. Patients, healthcare providers, and health practices may benefit from emergency plans that anticipate screening challenges given their increased importance during times of heightened risk, including disasters and epidemics.