Objective: To determine whether location-linked anaesthesiology calculator mobile application (app) data can serve as a qualitative proxy for global surgical case volumes and therefore monitor the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Methods: We collected data provided by users of the mobile app "Anesthesiologist" during 1 October 2018-30 June 2020. We analysed these using RStudio and generated 7-day moving-average app use plots. We calculated country-level reductions in app use as a percentage of baseline. We obtained data on COVID-19 case counts from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. We plotted changing app use and COVID-19 case counts for several countries and regions.

Findings: A total of 100 099 app users within 214 countries and territories provided data. We observed that app use was reduced during holidays, weekends and at night, correlating with expected fluctuations in surgical volume. We observed that the onset of the pandemic prompted substantial reductions in app use. We noted strong cross-correlation between COVID-19 case count and reductions in app use in low- and middle-income countries, but not in high-income countries. Of the 112 countries and territories with non-zero app use during baseline and during the pandemic, we calculated a median reduction in app use to 73.6% of baseline.

Conclusion: App data provide a proxy for surgical case volumes, and can therefore be used as a real-time monitor of the impact of COVID-19 on surgical capacity. We have created a dashboard for ongoing visualization of these data, allowing policy-makers to direct resources to areas of greatest need.


This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution IGO License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/igo/legalcode), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In any reproduction of this article there should not be any suggestion that WHO or this article endorse any specific organization or products. The use of the WHO logo is not permitted. This notice should be preserved along with the article's original URL.

Cite as

O'Reilly-Shah, V., Van Cleve, W., Long, D., Moll, V., Evans, F., Sunshine, J., Kassebaum, N., Harrison, E. & Jabaley, C. 2020, 'Impact of COVID-19 response on global surgical volumes: an ongoing observational study', Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 98(10), pp. 671-682. https://doi.org/10.2471/BLT.20.264044

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Last updated: 27 October 2023
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