News: Half of discharged hospitalized COVID-19 patients in declining health
A study from Michigan Medicine found that nearly half of COVID-19 patients left the hospital with significant functional decline post-discharge, HealthLeaders reported. Of those survivors who suffered functional decline, 80% were referred for additional therapy after discharge. Nearly 20% of all patients declined to the point that they were no longer able to live independently.
"Rehabilitation needs were really common for these patients," lead author Alecia K. Daunter, MD, a pediatric physiatrist (PM&R) at Michigan Medicine, said in a media release. "They survived, but these people left the hospital in worse physical condition than they started. If they needed outpatient therapy or are now walking with a cane, something happened that impacted their discharge plan […] These patients may have needed to move to a subacute facility, or they might have needed to move in with a family member, but they were not able to go home."
Researchers viewed charts of nearly 300 adult patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at Michigan Medicine during the pandemic's first wave between March and April 2020. They analyzed patients' discharge locations, therapy needs at time of release, and whether they needed durable medical equipment or other services.
Because the study period occurred in the early days of the pandemic, as healthcare providers focused primarily on minimizing exposures and managing patient overflow, about 40% of patients never had a rehabilitation evaluation by a therapist or PM&R physician while hospitalized.
The study is a snapshot of acute therapy needs during a time when knowledge of the unprecedented virus was even more limited. While additional research examining the long-term effects of COVID on functionality is needed, health systems can use the current data to conduct rehabilitation assessments and prepare resources for this underserved population, Daunter says.
"These problems are frequent, and the stakes are pretty high if we miss them, or allow them to progress during hospitalization," she says. "Some of these people were working and many were living independently. To lose that level of function is meaningful. We want to make sure we're addressing those needs; not just looking at the black and white—survival or death."