What Patients Want Physicians to Understand #
Patients with Long COVID are the experts of their own illness. This is a profound statement! The idea that patients living with Long COVID understand their symptoms and their body is something that they hope physicians take into consideration when they come in for treatment. While there is no cure for Long COVID, there are still many things that you as a physician can do to improve your patient’s quality of life. Patients are simply looking for help and, for the most part, many understand that a cure is not yet within reach. However, activity management and treating the patient’s most troublesome symptoms can go a long way.
We are all learning about Long COVID and other post-viral chronic complex diseases, including what treatments are most successful. As a physician, it is important to validate Long COVID patients and be willing to simply say, “I don’t know, but I am working to find out,” when it comes to their treatment. Harvard Chan School of Public Health’s presentation, Understanding Long COVID: The Unseen Public Health Crisis, is a fantastic resource for both physicians and patients on the scope of Long COVID and Long COVID care in this time of uncertainty.
Things to Consider When Treating Patients with Long COVID #
Long COVID is requiring physicians to change the way they treat patients. When it comes to treating Long COVID patients, there are three considerations to keep in mind.
- Consideration 1 – Listen. Validate. Acknowledge.
- Consideration 2 – SARS-CoV-2 can damage every organ and system of the body. Symptoms can be broad or narrow and constant or waning. Vaccines may help some patients, while making others worse. Determining the symptoms that most impact the patient’s quality of life and addressing these in partnership with the patient is the end goal until the day there is a cure.
- Consideration 3 – Patients with Long COVID understand this is a challenging disease to address because of its waxing/waning, multifaceted nature. That means part of the clinician’s job is to work with the patient long-term, listen carefully regarding medication efficacy and side effects, titrating up or down or changing interventions as necessary, being clear that the path to better wellness requires time, attention, and patience on the part of both the patient and their clinician. It is important to remember that Long COVID is difficult and often scary, and that the diagnosis is life-changing. As a physician, you have the ability to form a partnership with your patient that can be rewarding.
- Consideration 4 – Don’t promise too big (something about 5% recover after the first year or two, something about how ‘attitude’ towards recovery doesn’t really matter, it’s not your job to police ‘attitude’.)