A recent study published in BMC Primary Care sheds light on the impact of long-COVID diagnoses and symptoms on the costs of primary care in the United Kingdom. Led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, the study analyzed data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Aurum primary care database to estimate additional primary care costs and risk factors for persistent COVID-19 symptoms.
The study included 472,173 COVID-19 survivors and an equal number of matched uninfected participants, using data from January 2020 to April 2021. The results showed that there were 3,871 cases of long-COVID and 30,174 cases of symptomatic long-COVID. The patients in the study were on average 44 years old, with 55% being women and 64% White, while over half were overweight or obese.
Primary care visits among COVID-19 survivors were found to be 22.7% higher than those among unexposed participants, with subgroups such as DLC and SLC having even higher visit rates and incremental costs per patient. The annual incremental cost of primary care for long-COVID was £2.44 ($3.06) per patient and £23,382,452 ($29.3 million) nationally. Phone consultations represented over 60% of the total costs in all groups, with the highest costs among long-COVID patients.
According to the study authors, older age, female sex, obesity, White race, chronic conditions, and more previous consultations were risk factors for increased costs in primary care for patients with long-COVID. They also noted that supporting nonhospitalized individuals with long COVID in primary care will require significant healthcare investment and planning due to their substantial needs.
In conclusion, this research highlights the importance of recognizing the ongoing health consequences of COVID-19 beyond acute illnesses and taking steps to address them through effective primary care support systems that can manage their unique needs effectively.