PURPOSE: To understand the influence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on clinical autonomic education and research in Europe.
METHODS: We invited 84 European autonomic centers to complete an online survey, recorded the pre-pandemic-to-pandemic percentage of junior participants in the annual congresses of the European Federation of Autonomic Societies (EFAS) and European Academy of Neurology (EAN) and the pre-pandemic-to-pandemic number of PubMed publications on neurological disorders.
RESULTS: Forty-six centers answered the survey (55%). Twenty-nine centers were involved in clinical autonomic education and experienced pandemic-related didactic interruptions for 9 (5; 9) months. Ninety percent (n = 26/29) of autonomic educational centers reported a negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education quality, and 93% (n = 27/29) established e-learning models. Both the 2020 joint EAN-EFAS virtual congress and the 2021 (virtual) and 2022 (hybrid) EFAS and EAN congresses marked higher percentages of junior participants than in 2019. Forty-one respondents (89%) were autonomic researchers, and 29 of them reported pandemic-related trial interruptions for 5 (2; 9) months. Since the pandemic begin, almost half of the respondents had less time for scientific writing. Likewise, the number of PubMed publications on autonomic topics showed the smallest increase compared with other neurological fields in 2020-2021 and the highest drop in 2022. Autonomic research centers that amended their trial protocols for telemedicine (38%, n = 16/41) maintained higher clinical caseloads during the first pandemic year.
CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial negative impact on European clinical autonomic education and research. At the same time, it promoted digitalization, favoring more equitable access to autonomic education and improved trial design.