Because Long Covid is such a new illness, medical professionals are often learning about it alongside their patients.
Here’s what NZ Long Covid patients want their GPs and healthcare providers to know.
Consider Long Covid
With research showing that approximately 20% of Covid-19 infections result in ongoing symptoms, the possibility of Long Covid needs to be front of mind.
Despite no confirmatory laboratory tests yet, The Ministry of Health provide clinical guidelines that can be applied. The possibility of this diagnosis leads patients to better support, understanding of related conditions (such as POTS) and a higher chance of being able to get the rest they need.
Use the SNOMED CT codes. This is important, as it is one of the ways that the MoH can measure prevalence.
Note: the diagnosis of Long Covid does not have to be by exclusion. (See BMJ guidelines).
Provide information and be open to learning from the patient
Offer information about Long Covid and the current understanding of the condition. Be aware that the patient may not have much capacity to take this in, and may need information in writing. Be honest about not knowing everything and be open to learning, including from the patient.
As a patient group we are generally comfortable understanding that knowledge is being developed and that we don’t yet have all the answers. While we would love an instant fix we recognise that often there will be a long term partnership with our medical carers.
While you will not be able to offer a treatment for Long Covid as a whole, there are things you can do to help your patient in a meaningful way:
- Help set realistic goals for recovery, and explain energy conservation techniques such as pacing to avoid Post-Exertional Symptom Exacerbation (PESE)
- Provide help with managing symptoms and improving quality of life, even in the absence of definitive cures.
- Detect and manage any ‘red flag’ symptoms.
- Work with the person to develop a care plan, so they are actively involved and empowered in their own healthcare.
Our support group has members who have had specialist referrals that they have found helpful.
This includes cardiologists, neurologists, and physiotherapists who are familiar with the latest biomedical research.
Please consider making a referral.
Provide sickness certification and support with WINZ applications if required
Offer help with sickness certificates and WINZ applications if appropriate. This is a great help, especially for people with brain fog who are finding it hard to keep on top of everything.
Be aware that being off work sick for extended periods of time is very stressful and worrying for patients. Your understanding in this time is valuable.
Offer support where appropriate
Let patients know they can also connect with a well-established New Zealand support group on Facebook. Long Covid Support Aotearoa offers emotional support from people who are experiencing the same challenges.
Thank you for supporting us through this life changing illness
For more information:
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) Primary Care guideline
Information for patients www.longcovidsupport.co.nz
Facebook support group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/nzlongcovid/?mibextid=uJjRxr
Patients – if you would like a PDF of this information to give to your doctor you can download one here.