BIDMC launches COVID-19 'long-haulers' program

March 23, 2021

With the progressing emergence of patients with COVID-19 exhibiting severe, long-term symptoms, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has convened a team of experts to support this subset of patients, also known as “long-haulers,” according to a news release from BIDMC.

BIDMC’s Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program integrates a broad multi-disciplinary team of medical experts to treat patients with persistent symptoms, which are also described as “long-COVID” or “post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC),” the medical center said.

BIDMC’s program serves patients who have experienced a wide range of disease severity, from mild cases to those involving long stays in an intensive care unit (ICU). A majority of patients in the program are between the ages of 30 and 60, reporting symptoms of breathing discomfort, muscle weakness, racing heartbeat, profound fatigue, dizziness, problems with thinking and memory, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress several months after having COVID-19.

“These symptoms can be severe and impact quality of life substantially, preventing many patients from returning to work and carrying out their daily lives at home,” said Jason Maley, MD, Director of the Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program and Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at BIDMC. “The symptoms can impact many areas of their bodies and they often experience a frustrating process of traveling to many different separate specialists who are not connected to one another and may not be able to provide the answers that patients are seeking. Our program aims to provide comprehensive, integrated care with a team of experts who are rapidly gaining expertise in post-COVID care by seeing a large number of patients each week.”

The program is open to anyone experiencing long-COVID symptoms regardless of where they were treated for their initial COVID-19 illness. Patients are initially scheduled for a telehealth visit during which Maley performs broad screening for impairments. Maley develops an individual plan with his patients based on their main deficiencies, and next steps for care are arranged with a core team of specialists in the program, including experts from the cognitive neurology, neurology-neuropathy, psychiatry, geriatrics, sleep medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy and pulmonary disciplines.

In addition to providing comprehensive care for patients with long-COVID, Maley and his team of specialists are actively engaged in research and are establishing new studies to better understand the syndrome and improve the lives of their patients.

“While our patients are improving with treatment, we are also working hard to develop resources to help with social support and overcoming daily difficulties at home or work,” Maley said. “We aim to be a leading center nationally for expertise in long-COVID care, and are helping to organize a national network of post-COVID clinics.”

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