COVID-19 Hospitalization Leads to Greater Health Care Needs Months Later

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COVID-19 Hospitalization Leads to Greater Health Care Needs Months Later

People who are hospitalized for COVID-19 tend to have greater health care needs for up to nine months afterwards compared with before their hospitalization, according to a new study presented at the 2022 CHEST (American College of Chest Physicians) Annual Meeting and described in an article at Healio.

Many different studies have shown that people with diabetes are at greater risk for poor outcomes related to COVID-19 — including higher risks for hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), and death. But these worse outcomes appear to be highly dependent on a person’s blood glucose control, with a higher A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) increasing the risk for hospitalization in people with type 2 diabetes. Research has also shown that other lifestyle factors, like following a healthy plant-based diet, are linked to better COVID-19 outcomes. COVID-19 can also exacerbate existing health problems related to diabetes, such as increasing the risk for peripheral neuropathy.

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For the latest study, researchers looked at data from 63,161 adults who were hospitalized for COVID-19 and discharged to go home (rather than, say, a rehabilitation facility) between April 2020 and March 2021. The average age of participants was 72.4, and 53.7% were women. Among these participants, 75.8% had high blood pressure, 36.5% had diabetes, 25.8% had congestive heart failure, and 25.2% had coronary artery disease (CAD).

The researchers were interested in comparing use of health care before and after participants’ COVID-19 hospitalization. They defined use of health care as emergency room visits, readmission to the hospital, visits to an outpatient clinic, or a telemedicine visit — and they also looked at whether participants sought or required care in various medical specialties, including primary care, psychiatry, pulmonology (breathing care), cardiology, and endocrinology.

Increase in use of care following COVID-19 hospitalization

The researchers found that compared with before participants’ COVID-19 hospitalization, overall use of care increased by 65% in the following months. Most of this health care use occurred during the first three months following discharge from the hospital, and went down over time. When it came to specific specialties, there was a 69% increase in primary care visits, a 235% increase in pulmonary clinic visits, an 80% increase in cardiology clinic visits, a 46% increase in neurology visits, and a 46% increase in visits to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

These results show, the researchers noted, that doctors and health care systems should be prepared to treat people hospitalized for COVID-19 at a greater rate than before their hospitalization — but that most of these increased health care needs are somewhat predictable and temporary. More research is needed, though, to examine long-term health care needs in people who were hospitalized for COVID-19 — including assessments that look at care that people may need or desire, but don’t actually receive for various reasons.

Want to learn more about coronavirus and diabetes? Read our latest COVID-19 updates.

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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