A recent study published in BMC Primary Care has shown that long-COVID diagnoses and persistent symptoms among nonhospitalized adults are associated with a significant increase in primary care costs in the United Kingdom. The study, led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, analyzed data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Aurum primary care database to estimate additional primary care costs and risk factors for long-term COVID-19 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.
Primary care visits among COVID-19 survivors were found to be significantly higher than those among unexposed participants. Specifically, the DLC (Data Linkage Center) and SLC (Single Layer Cohort) subgroups had even higher visit rates and incremental costs per patient compared to other groups. 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, several factors increase the costs of primary care for patients with long-COVID. These include older age, female sex, obesity, White race, chronic conditions, and more previous consultations. The authors also note that supporting nonhospitalized individuals with long COVID in primary care is likely to require substantial healthcare investment and planning due to their increased demand for medical attention.
Overall, this study highlights the significant impact of long-COVID on primary care costs in the UK and underscores the need for continued investment in healthcare resources to support those affected by this condition.