Rates and Factors Associated With Documentation of Diagnostic Codes for Long COVID in the National Veterans Affairs Health Care System

2022  Journal Article

Rates and Factors Associated With Documentation of Diagnostic Codes for Long COVID in the National Veterans Affairs Health Care System

Pub TLDR

This study looked at the rates and factors associated with documentation of long COVID care in the US Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. They found that long COVID care was documented in a variety of clinical settings and was more common in older individuals, those with higher comorbidity burden, and those who were unvaccinated at the time of infection. These findings can help guide health care systems in managing patients with long COVID.

 

College of Health researcher(s)

OSU Profile

Highlights

Key Points

Question

What are the rates, clinical settings, and factors associated with documentation of care related to COVID-19 at 3 or more months after acute infection?

Findings

In this cohort study of 198 601 persons with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, COVID-19 care was documented in 13.5% of individuals 3 or more months after infection during a mean follow-up of 13.5 months and was documented more commonly in older persons, those with higher comorbidity burden, those with more severe acute COVID-19 presentation, and those who were unvaccinated at the time of infection.

Meaning

These findings provide guidance for health care systems to develop systematic approaches to the evaluation and management of patients who may be experiencing long COVID.

Abstract

Importance

Some persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience symptoms or impairments many months after acute infection.

Objectives

To determine the rates, clinical setting, and factors associated with documented receipt of COVID-19–related care 3 or more months after acute infection.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective cohort study used data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Participants included persons with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test between February 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, who were still alive 3 months after infection and did not have evidence of reinfection. Data analysis was performed from February 2020 to December 2021.

Exposures

Positive SARS-CoV-2 test.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Rates and factors associated with documentation of COVID-19–related International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes (U07.1, Z86.16, U09.9, and J12.82) 3 or more months after acute infection (hereafter, long-COVID care), with follow-up extending to December 31, 2021.

Results

Among 198 601 SARS-CoV-2–positive persons included in the study, the mean (SD) age was 60.4 (17.7) years, 176 942 individuals (89.1%) were male, 133 924 (67.4%) were White, 44 733 (22.5%) were Black, and 19 735 (9.9%) were Hispanic. During a mean (SD) follow-up of 13.5 (3.6) months, long-COVID care was documented in a wide variety of clinics, most commonly primary care and general internal medicine (18 634 of 56 310 encounters [33.1%]), pulmonary (7360 of 56 310 encounters [13.1%]), and geriatrics (5454 of 56 310 encounters [9.7%]). Long-COVID care was documented in 26 745 cohort members (13.5%), with great variability across geographical regions (range, 10.8%-18.1%) and medical centers (range, 3.0%-41.0%). Factors significantly associated with documented long-COVID care included older age, Black or American Indian/Alaska Native race, Hispanic ethnicity, geographical region, high Charlson Comorbidity Index score, having documented symptoms at the time of acute infection (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.71; 95% CI, 1.65-1.78) and requiring hospitalization (AOR, 2.60; 95% CI, 2.51-2.69) or mechanical ventilation (AOR, 2.46; 95% CI, 2.26-2.69). Patients who were fully vaccinated at the time of infection were less likely to receive long-COVID care (AOR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.68-0.90).

Conclusions and Relevance

Long-COVID care was documented in a variety of clinical settings, with great variability across regions and medical centers and was documented more commonly in older persons, those with higher comorbidity burden, those with more severe acute COVID-19 presentation and those who were unvaccinated at the time of infection. These findings provide support and guidance for health care systems to develop systematic approaches to the evaluation and management of patients who may be experiencing long COVID.

Ioannou, G.N., Baraff, A., Fox, A., Shahoumian, T., Hickok, A., O’Hare, A., Bohnert, A.S., Boyko, E.J., Maciejewski, M.L., Bowling, C.B., Viglianti, E.M., Iwashyna, T.J., Hynes, D.M.(2022)Rates and Factors Associated With Documentation of Diagnostic Codes for Long COVID in the National Veterans Affairs Health Care SystemJAMA Network Open5(7)