AAPM&R is Calling for a Comprehensive National Plan to Address the Needs of Millions Suffering from Long COVID

According to two recent publications from the Journal of the American Medical Association, ten to thirty percent of individuals who had COVID-19 reported at least one persistent symptom up to six months after the virus left their bodies. That means 3 to 10 million Americans are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), which are varied and ongoing, including neurological challenges, cognitive problems such as brain fog, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, and mobility issues.

AAPM&R called on President Joe Biden and Congress to gear up for the next coronavirus crisis by preparing and implementing a comprehensive national plan focused on meeting the needs of millions of individuals suffering from the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, and help them regain quality of life and return to being active members of their communities. The plan must include a commitment to three major components:

  • Resources to build necessary infrastructure to meet this crisis
  • Equitable access to care for patients
  • Research to advance medical understanding of Long COVID

PM&R physicians are uniquely qualified to help guide the multidisciplinary effort needed to develop a plan for this crisis. As a specialty, physiatrists are investigators, team leaders and problem solvers. PM&R physicians see the whole patient AND the whole picture of the rehabilitation ecosystem. Physiatrists are exactly what this crisis needs. Learn more about our Multidisciplinary PASC Collaborative, launched in March 2021, which is working on quality improvement initiatives.

AAPM&R Advocacy, Healthcare Collaborations and Partnerships, and Customized Resources to Support PM&R During This Crisis

AAPM&R is working to ensure PM&R is part of the national conversation about healthcare amidst COVID-19 and advocating for the federal support, legislation, regulation relief and resources that physiatrists need now. One way we are doing this is through our partnerships and collaborations with other specialty societies. The Academy continuously works to represent PM&R through these collaborations, and it is through these partnerships that we are able to discuss and share a variety of resources with you that you critically need.

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AAPM&R Continues to Advance Our Long COVID Efforts

Aug 01, 2023

On July 31, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that a new Office of Long COVID Research and Practice has officially been created, as called for in the National Research Action Plan on Long COVID published in 2022. Since March 2021, we have been leading an extensive advocacy effort to support the urgent needs of America’s Long COVID patients.

“We are pleased that the Biden Administration has consistently worked to address our call to action through the White House National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, the White House Memorandum on Addressing the Long-Term Effects of COVID-⁠19, and yesterday, with HHS’s announcing the formation of the Office of Long COVID Research and Practice,” said Steven Flanagan, MD, FAAPMR, AAPM&R President.

This newly-created office will continue current efforts to lead the whole-of-government response and work across the government to implement the National Research Action Plan on Long COVID. They will continue to ensure that research findings are rapidly translated into clinical practice guidelines; that services and supports are available; and that the public understands the risk of Long COVID and how to prevent it and to reduce disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.

“HHS and AAPM&R worked together to share research, insights and Long COVID patient care best practices in the many months that led to yesterday’s formation of the Long COVID office. What happens in the future will also be critical. AAPM&R will continue to take our seat at the table to support the office, its research and its impact on Long COVID patients,” said Dr. Flanagan.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as part of its Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative, launched and is opening enrollment for phase two clinical trials that will evaluate at least four potential treatments for Long COVID. To learn more about the RECOVER clinical trials, visit their website.

What AAPM&R is Continuing to Advance:

  • Leading through the Development of Consensus Clinical Guidance
    • Our PASC/Long COVID Collaborative was convened in 2021 to address the pressing need for guidance in the care of patients with Long COVID. The collaborative has released seven guidance statements so far on fatigue, breathing discomfort, cognitive symptoms, cardiovascular complications, autonomic dysfunction, pediatrics and neurological symptoms. Guidance on mental health is planned for release later this year.
  • Ensuring PM&R is Recognized Nationally for its Role in Directing Rehabilitation and Recovery
    • To promote the PASC Collaborative’s guidance statements, we have been hosting “reporter roundtables” with media attending to hear directly from PM&R experts, which led to many requests from reporters asking to interview PM&R physicians for hundreds of Long COVID news stories. These media outlets included MedPage TodayMedscapeThe Washington PostABC NewsNBC NewsThe New York TimesMedical EconomicsAxiosPOLITICOWebMDCNN and many more.
    • Establishing this credibility through Long COVID has allowed us to communicate more about the value of PM&R early and throughout the continuum of healthcare. And these connections are now allowing us to expand the understanding of PM&R and its value with key stakeholders through the media. Learn more about where your physiatry peers and AAPM&R have been featured in the news.

We have been collaborating with HHS since 2021 to advance Long COVID efforts and to promote the role of PM&R in leading rehabilitation. We are thrilled about this exciting news and we will continue working to make progress toward addressing the long-term impact of COVID-19.