A recent study published in BMC Primary Care sheds light on the association between long-COVID diagnoses and persistent symptoms among nonhospitalized adults and their impact on primary care costs 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 long-COVID symptoms.
The research included 472,173 COVID-19 survivors and an equal number of matched uninfected participants, using data from January 2020 to April 2021. The study found 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, 55% were women, 64% were White, and 55% were overweight or obese.
The results showed that primary care visits among COVID-19 survivors were 22.7% higher than those among unexposed participants, with the DLC and SLC subgroups 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. The authors also noted that the support of nonhospitalized individuals with long COVID in primary care is likely to be substantial, requiring significant healthcare investment and planning.