Doctor and nursing home residents wearing source control

Clinicians will play a key role in educating patients about long COVID and its complications, but first they must get up to speed on the multisystem syndrome, according to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Patients’ lived experiences are at the center of the agency’s Health+ Long COVID Human-Centered Design Report. The authors drew on more than 1,000 hours of patient, clinician and caregiver interviews to support the federal government’s mission to improve care for those affected by the syndrome.

Long COVID is a “real and serious public health issue” with wide-ranging consequences that include a variety of health problems, the authors wrote. Up to 20% of COVID survivors, or about 16 million Americans, develop symptoms of long COVID. Many of these patients will heal, while others will become disabled, creating a need to increase the capacity of healthcare systems to support new care requirements, they concluded. 

Currently, healthcare providers are not adequately trained to recognize or diagnose long COVID or “outright don’t believe” that their patients have the syndrome, the authors reported. What’s more, the current reimbursement system is not set up to handle multisystem conditions, they wrote.

The authors recommend more training and education to help healthcare providers, including provision of sample care pathways that will enable precise diagnoses. They foresee clinicians creating and sharing materials about long COVID and its associated conditions with their patients, with an aim toward better patient outcomes. 

Ideal training and resourcing of healthcare providers would include the following, they wrote:

• CPT code guidance for long COVID
• Training incentives
• An outreach campaign to train health care providers on what long COVID is, how to identify it, and
suggested care pathways
• Regular distribution of educational resources
• Long COVID education in medical schools
• Reimbursements for reviewing complex patient histories

The report includes recommendations in many additional areas. It also describes differences in the impact of long COVID on individuals, care inequities and barriers to care and an ideal treatment journey. In addition to healthcare providers, the authors also address assistance providers, educators, employers, researchers, advocacy organizations and the general public.

The full report can be found on the HHS website. 

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