COVID-19 hospital patients experience lasting problems

Nov. 13, 2020

Within two months of leaving an inpatient unit, nearly 7 percent of patients discharged from Michigan hospitals had died, including more than 10 percent of the patients treated in an intensive care unit. Fifteen percent had ended up back in the hospital, according to a press release from the University of Michigan.

The data come from more than 1,250 patients treated in 38 hospitals across Michigan this spring and summer, when the state was one of the earliest to experience a peak in cases  Researchers published the findings from their study, which grew out of existing multi-hospital quality improvement efforts funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“These data suggest that the burden of COVID-19 extends far beyond the hospital and far beyond health,” says Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc, lead author of the study and Chief of Hospital Medicine at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center. “The mental, financial and physical tolls of this disease among survivors appear substantial.”

Researchers interviewed 488 of the surviving patients by phone, around sixty days after hospitalization. Of those, more than 39 percent of the patients said they had not gotten back to normal activities yet, two months after leaving the hospital. Twelve percent of the patients said they could not carry out basic care for themselves anymore, or as well as before.

Nearly 23 percent said they became short of breath just climbing a flight of stairs. One-third had ongoing COVID-like symptoms, including many who still had problems with taste or smell.

Of those who had jobs before their bout with COVID-19, 40 percent said they could not return to work; most because of their health and some because they’d lost their job. And 26 percent of those who had gone back to work said they had to work fewer hours or have reduced duties because of their health.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they’d been emotionally affected by their experience with COVID-19 – including a minority who said they’d sought mental healthcare.

More than a third – 37 percent – of those interviewed said their experience with COVID-19 had left them with at least a minor financial impact. Nearly 10 percent said they’d used up most or all of their savings, and 7 percent said they were rationing food, heat, housing or medications because of cost.

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