Post-COVID syndrome drives innovation in managing care

While some people experience few or no symptoms from COVID-19, others struggle with persistent symptoms long after recovering from the initial illness. While we don’t yet know why some people suffer from this collection of lingering symptoms, the condition known as post-COVID syndrome has driven OSF HealthCare to innovate new ways to manage and coordinate patient care.

With the creation of the COVID Recovery Clinic, OSF HealthCare has expanded the ability of primary care providers (PCPs) to consult electronically with specialists and collaborate on care. By making it easier to manage a patient’s care, it helps make sure patients receive the right care at the right time.

Post-COVID syndrome has several possible symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Brain fog, including an inability to concentrate and impaired memory
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Sleep issues

If you are suffering any of these symptoms, please contact your primary care provider.

What is the COVID Recovery Clinic?

The COVID Recovery Clinic is not an actual building or facility. It is a group of specialists who work with PCPs to manage any issues a patient is experiencing due to post-COVID syndrome.

“We wanted patients to feel comfortable in a familiar environment with their trusted primary care team,” said Brian Curtis, MD, vice president of clinical specialty services for OSF HealthCare. “So, we created ready, easy access to all specialties, regardless of where the primary care provider or patient is located, to bring speedier service and help patients avoid unnecessary travel.”

Post-COVID syndrome is not the same for everybody. It can impact any of several different organ systems, so experts from several specialties need to be ready to respond to the needs of a post-COVID syndrome patient quickly.

OSF primary care providers can use a tool called the e-consult to share patient info and request the opinion of a specialist using electronic medical record software. The tool has been expanded for the COVID Recovery Clinic, allowing PCPs to seek e-consults from several participating specialists with a single click instead of referring the patient to one or several specialists and requiring more scheduled appointments.

In turn, the specialists respond with recommendations within 24 hours.

“We’re making it easier for PCPs and specialists to collaborate,” Dr. Curtis said. “We’re making the right care at the right time more accessible for people throughout Illinois, where people can often find themselves a long distance from the services they need,” Dr. Curtis said.

“The PCP’s job is to manage the care of their patients and coordinate care outside of their practice,” Dr. Curtis said. “Now they can reach out for advice via consult, with specialists adding input and management recommendations while the patient remains within the care of their primary care team, which is really the best place for them.”

The benefits

The results so far have been positive, both for providers and patients.

“We look at it as a convenience for us, but I think it’s even more of a convenience for the patient,” Dr. Curtis said. “They are going to the right specialist with the testing they needed already done. It saves patients’ time and copay costs, too.”

Deepak Nair, MD, is the director of Ambulatory & Virtual Neurology Services for OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute and a neurological hospitalist at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center. He is one of the neurology specialists on the COVID Recovery Clinic team, and he played a role in creating the program. He said the e-consult tool has seamlessly integrated into his work and enabled him to get recommendations to primary care teams far faster than the traditional referral system.

Plus, the multi-specialist team can all access the same records and communications and collaborate more effectively.

“I think there was a lot of anxiety around the concept of e-consults, but it’s the opposite of disruptive,” Dr. Nair said. “A lot of classic frustration with getting referrals is because you’re missing a lot of the patient’s story and information, and we traditionally can’t get that until we have physically seen them. This tool gets a clinician-to-clinician conversation going.

“We can make recommendations on what testing needs to be done before someone comes to see us,” he said. “It makes their first visit with us much more effective. It improves communication and solves a patient’s problem in a much more effective way.

“E-consults help us identify which patients need to be seen as a priority and can be a key part of collaboration between specialists in the Ministry,” he said.

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: COVID-19