The average person with long covid did not have a serious infection to begin with, a new report suggests. The study, a review of private insurance claims, found that three-quarters of long-diagnosed patients were not hospitalized with covid-19. Additionally, researchers found that patients were more likely to be co-diagnosed with symptoms such as fatigue and difficulty breathing.
Last October, long covid has been codified in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), a codebook used by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies for diagnostic and billing purposes. This code, officially known as “U09.9 Post covid-19 condition, unspecified”, allowed patients to be formally recognized as having long covid. But it also gave researchers another way to study these patients on a larger scale.
This report, conducted by FAIR Health, a nonprofit that describes itself as having the largest database of privately billed health insurance claims in the nation, is one of the first researches to do just that.
Using their database, the authors identified nearly 80,000 patients who had been diagnosed with post-covid symptoms within four months of the implementation of the ICD code, through January 2022. Most of patients (75.8%), they found, had never been hospitalized for their original case of covid-19.
“Post-covid conditions have become an issue of growing national concern,” said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, in a Press release. “We hope these results will prove useful for everyone diagnosed with post-covid conditions, as well as providers, payers, policymakers and researchers.”
Other research has regularly found that the more severe your initial infection, the more likely you are to experience lingering complications and premature death. But studies have also shown that even people with mild to moderate cases are at risk of developing various health problems afterwards, to a greater extent than people with other respiratory infections. Most people who catch covid-19 don’t end up in hospital either. So while the individual risk of prolonged symptoms may be lowest for people who have had milder covid-19, there are simply far more people in this group than there are survivors of covid-19. a serious illness.
The report’s other findings could provide additional insight into the long covid. The largest patient age group (34.6%) was between 36 and 50, for example, but this could be because older Americans are generally covered by public health insurance plans. sickness. Women were more likely to be diagnosed than men and were more likely not to have been originally hospitalized. The three most frequently diagnosed conditions at the same time were “breathing abnormalities” (23.2%), cough (18.9%) and malaise/fatigue (16.7%). And although many patients have pre-existing health conditions, 30% had never been diagnosed with a chronic condition before their long covid.
The report is a white paper, meaning it has not undergone formal peer review, an important part of validating any scientific research. The results should therefore be taken with more caution than usual. No study, even peer-reviewed, should have the final say on anything. But the amount of data available lends credibility to the findings, and it’s likely that other researchers will be able to use the ICD-10 data for similar studies in the future.
For their part, the authors plan to further analyze their data, both to follow the long-term outcomes of these patients and to examine whether vaccination reduced the risk of long covid, like other to research suggested that he can.