A recent study published in BMC Primary Care has shed light on the significant costs associated with long-COVID diagnoses and long-term symptoms among nonhospitalized adults 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, 64% being White, and 55% being overweight or obese.
The findings revealed that primary care visits among COVID-19 survivors were 22.7% higher than those among unexposed participants. Moreover, subgroups such as DLC (Diagnostic Laboratory Coding) and SLC (Symptom Laboratory Coding) had 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 highlighted that supporting nonhospitalized individuals with long COVID in primary care is likely to be substantial and will require significant healthcare investment and planning.
Overall, this study underscores the importance of addressing the unique needs of individuals with long-COVID in primary care settings to prevent unnecessary healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes.