Monday, June 24, 2024

New codes a shortcut to long COVID impact

Clinical codes for patients with long COVID-19 have been developed to help provide a clearer picture of the impact of the condition over time, the Ministry of Health announced today.

It said the codes have been developed for hospital level care for patients with “ongoing symptomatic COVID-19” and “Post COVID-19 syndrome”.

The are currently being rolled out across all medical record IT systems used in primary care.

People with on-going symptomatic COVID-19 are defined as having signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from 4 weeks up to 12 weeks after testing positive.  

People with post-COVID-19 syndrome are defined as having signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.  

Once thee codes are in regular use, the Ministry will be able to track detailed information about the impact of COVID-19, including those groups most vulnerable to its effect. 

The Ministry’s Long COVID Expert Advisory Group, chaired by the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Dr Martin Chadwick, has also endorsed an agreed case definition for post-COVID-19 conditions based on the UK NICE guidance and guidelines for long COVID rehabilitation.

He said the guidelines will be finalised and published in the coming weeks and will support self-care for patients, whānau and carers as well as helping clinicians in diagnosing long COVID and managing the condition for patients. 

:An important message for people with COVID-19 is to allow yourself time to recover as that may help reduce the chances of further symptoms of long COVID,” Dr Chadwick says. 

“The vast majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 will recover within weeks and return to normal health. But for a small group of people symptoms will persist and have a lasting effect on their health.

“Because COVID-19 is relatively new, there remains much we do not know about its long-term effects. Although it is difficult to precisely predict the likely burden of long COVID in New Zealand, given the large number of people who have had COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is likely to result in impacts on individuals, families and whānau quality of life and wellbeing, and the healthcare system over time.

“For New Zealanders’ health, it’s important we build on the information we are gathering now, to ensure the support being provided to people with long COVID is informed by the latest evidence.” 

Dr Chadwick said discussions were continuing between the Ministry and its counterparts in other countries, including Australia, Italy, Canada, and United Kingdom, about using new methods for supporting people with long COVID, including digital tools for self-care. 

“We continue to look for innovative ways for supporting people that continue to have ongoing effects from COVID-19,” he said.

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