A recent study published in BMC Primary Care found that long-COVID diagnoses and persistent symptoms among nonhospitalized adults in the United Kingdom were associated with a 43% and 44% increase in primary care costs. The research was led by University of Birmingham researchers, who analyzed data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Aurum primary care database to estimate additional costs and risk factors for COVID-19 symptoms.
The study included 472,173 COVID-19 survivors and an equal number of matched uninfected participants, using data from January 2020 to April 2021. The results showed that there were 3,871 cases of long-COVID and 30,174 cases of symptomatic long-COVID. Patients in the study were on average 44 years old, with 55% being women, 64% White, and 55% overweight or obese.
The study found that primary care visits among COVID-19 survivors were higher than those among unexposed participants, with certain subgroups having even higher visit rates and incremental costs per patient. The annual incremental cost of primary care for long-COVID was £2.44 ($3.06) per patient and £23,382,452 ($29.3 million) nationally. Phone consultations accounted for over 60% of the total costs across all groups, with the highest costs among long-COVID patients.
According to the study authors, several factors were associated with increased costs in primary care for patients with long-COVID. These included older age, female sex, obesity, White race, chronic conditions, and more previous consultations. The authors also noted that nonhospitalized individuals with long COVID require significant healthcare investment and planning to support them effectively in primary care settings.