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Long COVID-19, Just One Aftereffect of COVID-19

Long COVID-19, Just One Aftereffect of COVID-19

With continued COVID-19 surges occurring worldwide despite the availability of a number of variations of vaccines, some patients continue to experience what is now being dubbed as “Long COVID-19” or “Post COVID-19 Syndrome”. Symptoms that are commonly experienced include a persistent cough, dyspnea, chest and/or joint pain, neuralgia, and headaches. These symptoms can last up to 12 weeks and in some cases, even longer. The more people that develop long COVID-19, the greater the strain on the healthcare system and need for appropriate diagnosis and treatment options.

A recent paper by A.V. Raveendran from January 2021 proposed diagnostic criteria to help confirm a diagnosis of long COVID-19. Depending on clinical symptomology, duration criteria and the presence or absence of a positive swab or antibodies, a long COVID-19 diagnosis can be categorized as confirmed, probable, possible or doubtful. Having an appropriate diagnosis will allow the practitioner to prescribe the relevant treatment plan.

In the United Kingdom, where the number of people exhibiting long COVID-19 continues to increase, a guideline has been developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to provide recommendations to help identify, assess, and manage the effects. As more evidence is collected, the plan is to update the document on a continuous basis to maintain its validity. The guideline takes into consideration clinical symptomology, duration criteria, and the presence or absence of a positive SARS-Cov-2 test. It also provides guidelines for suggested referrals, and a plan of care with follow-up and monitoring.

While the guideline manual has many useful suggestions, there are a number of gaps where further detailed information will be needed.  As new information is discovered, the goal is to include comprehensive reviews of symptomology, and pathology of the disease process and a better understanding of the variation in impact. Simultaneously, there needs to be an increase in rehabilitation and community resources to allow for individualized evidenced based care for those suffering from the debilitating effects of long COVID-19.

The Michigan Value Collaborative continues to assess data related to COVID-19 and will be sharing a dedicated COVID-19 push report with members in the coming months. If you would like access to the MVC registry, please request it here or via email michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com

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Telehealth Use: Maintaining Access to Surgical Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Telehealth Use: Maintaining Access to Surgical Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique situation which led to the high use of telehealth in caring for the medical patient population. However, it was unknown whether these same patterns would transfer to surgical care. The Michigan Value Collaborative (MVC) registry allows health systems to leverage administrative claims data from a variety of sources and better understand trends in telehealth use. Using MVC BCBSM data, the Telehealth Research Incubator at Michigan Medicine found in their study that telehealth was a viable way for patients to access surgical care.

Historically, surgery is the medical field least likely to use telehealth. However, with in-person care constraints resulting from the pandemic and updated policies making it feasible for telehealth visits to be eligible for reimbursement, a large uptake in telehealth among surgeons was witnessed.

Approximately 60% of active surgeons used telehealth in some capacity during the pandemic. Specifically, our study examined telehealth use for new patient visits. We were curious if surgeons were able to use telehealth to evaluate new patients, and the results proved that this was a viable and beneficial option to provide care. Significantly,  27% of all active surgeons used telehealth for new patient visits.

As shown in Figure 1, at peak use, we found over a third of visits for new patients were performed using telehealth. This is in contrast to the fewer than 10 telehealth new patient visits in 2019.

 

Figure 1

In addition, the study indicated that telehealth was successfully used for many surgical visits across multiple different surgical specialties, with urology and neurosurgery being the highest utilizers. This is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

There were two distinct periods of telehealth use: an early pandemic (fast uptake) and late pandemic period (slow decline). The slow decline that occurred during the late pandemic period indicated the reopening of clinics in June, and an increase in more in-person visits being used again. These are shown as Period 2 and Period 3 in the preceding figures.

Of note, our study looks at new patient visits because of the way that claims data is collected. Anecdotal evidence suggests that surgeons used telehealth even more for their established patients and for follow-up visits post-surgery. Although telehealth might save patients time and money in traveling to clinic, needing child care, and missing work, this type of consultation would be most appropriate for patients without post-operative complications.

It was noticed that telehealth provided access to surgical care for a significant proportion of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any sustained use of telehealth will require ongoing updated policies and infrastructure to ensure patients have continued access to this option for their care.

Please reach out to the Michigan Value Collaborative at michiganvaluecollaborative@gmail.com for further information.