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Health and financial risks persist after COVID-19 hospitalization

A new study from Michigan Medicine reveals the health and financial risks that people are facing after COVID-19 hospitalization. The experts report that after being released from treatment, individuals are experiencing complications ranging from mental health issues to rehospitalization and death.

The researchers analyzed records from more than 1,250 patients who had been treated for COVID-19 at 38 Michigan hospitals this past spring and summer. The team interviewed nearly 500 surviving patients by phone, who reported on an array of physical and mental health consequences, as well as financial difficulties.

The study showed that nearly seven percent of patients died within two months of leaving the hospital, and the mortality rate was even higher for patients that had been in the ICU. In addition, 15 percent of the survivors had ended up back in the hospital. 

“These data suggest that the burden of COVID-19 extends far beyond the hospital and far beyond health,” said study lead author Dr. Vineet Chopra. “The mental, financial and physical tolls of this disease among survivors appear substantial.”

Nearly 40 percent of the patients interviewed said they had not yet resumed their normal activities 60 days after leaving the hospital. Another 23 percent said they became short of breath just climbing a flight of stairs, while a third of the respondents had ongoing COVID-related symptoms.

Among those who had jobs before COVID-19 infection, 40 percent had either not been able to return to work due to health issues or had lost their job. A large portion of the individuals who had returned to work said they had to work fewer hours.

Overall, about half of the COVID-19 survivors were affected emotionally, and many were dealing with a heavy financial burden. Nearly 10 percent of the respondents had used up most or all of their savings.

“The sheer number of people struggling after COVID brings new urgency to developing programs to better promote and support recovery after acute illness,” said study senior author Dr. Hallie Prescott.

Although hospital care for COVID-19 patients has improved since the early months of the pandemic, the researchers found that 63 percent of patients who were treated in an ICU had died either during their hospital stay or within two months of returning home. This mortality rate is nearly double that of patients who were not admitted to an intensive care unit. 

The study is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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