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Physicians agree long COVID is a problem, but they may not be ready to spot it and help

Article

Foundation offers possible solutions to poll findings as Public Health Emergency end approaches.

Long COVID is a problem for some patients but physicians may not be ready with the best ways to help them.

The nation’s COVID-19 public health emergency will end May 11, but that doesn’t mean an end of longer-lasting maladies that came with the disease, according to a poll by Morning Consult on behalf of the de Beaumont Foundation.

Half of doctors said long COVID is somewhat of a problem, while 28% called it a significant problem in the United States. Just 2% said it was not a problem at all – the same amount as those said they didn’t know or had no opinion, according to the December 2022 findings published last month.

“Despite attempts by a small number of physicians to downplay the ongoing threat of COVID-19, these findings show that nearly all physicians recognize the threat of Long COVID, with only 2% saying it’s not a problem at all,” de Beaumont Foundation President and CEO Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, said in a statement. “And physicians and other Americans agree that we need more funding for Long COVID research."

That doesn’t necessarily mean the physicians are ready to aid patients. In the results, 7% of physicians are “very confident” diagnosing long COVID and just 4% said they are “very confident” treating it.

The de Beaumont Foundation offered at least three solutions that could help the situation.

  • More training for physicians. The foundation cited the report “Health+Long Covid” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a blueprint to engage academic partners in an “expansive outreach campaign.” Training would go for working physicians and for additional instruction on COVID and other infectious diseases in medical schools.
  • Increase federal funding for research on long COVID. That concept has strong bipartisan support among physicians and the public.
  • Improve public education to counter skepticism, stigma, and discrimination. One survey of 1,100 people with long COVID reported found 63% of them faced stigma and discrimination because of the condition.

In that study, 92% of respondents agreed many people think long COVID is not a real illness and 78% said they worried people would judge them negatively upon hearing of a diagnosis, according to the Morning Consult/de Beaumont Foundation findings.

“We desperately need clear, consistent messaging that long COVID is real and that it can happen to anyone,” study lead author Marija Pantelic said in a statement. “It’s not a disease of the weak or stressed out.”

Since the poll results were published, HHS on April 5 issued a fact sheet about federal whole-of-government efforts to help patients and physicians deal with long COVID. It includes free public awareness materials available through the “We Can Do This” campaign.

HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also has issued a notice of funding of $9 million for studies about expanding access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care for patients with long COVID.

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