Forming a consensus opinion to inform long COVID support mechanisms and interventions: a modified Delphi approach

Rebecca Owen, Ruth E.M. Ashton, Francesco V. Ferraro, Lindsay Skipper, Tom Bewick, Paul Leighton, Bethan E. Phillips, Mark A. Faghy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Current approaches to support patients living with post-COVID condition, also known as Long COVID, are highly disparate with limited success in managing or resolving a well-documented and long-standing symptom burden. With approximately 2.1 million people living with the condition in the UK alone and millions more worldwide, there is a desperate need to devise support strategies and interventions for patients. Methods: A three-round Delphi consensus methodology was distributed internationally using an online survey and was completed by healthcare professionals (including clinicians, physiotherapists, and general practitioners), people with long COVID, and long COVID academic researchers (round 1 n = 273, round 2 n = 186, round 3 n = 138). Across the three rounds, respondents were located predominantly in the United Kingdom (UK), with 17.3–15.2% (round 1, n = 47; round 2 n = 32, round 2 n = 21) of respondents located elsewhere (United States of America (USA), Austria, Malta, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Finland, Norway, Malta, Netherlands, Iceland, Canada, Tunisie, Brazil, Hungary, Greece, France, Austrailia, South Africa, Serbia, and India). Respondents were given ∼5 weeks to complete the survey following enrolment, with round one taking place from 02/15/2022 to 03/28/22, round two; 05/09/2022 to 06/26/2022, and round 3; 07/14/2022 to 08/09/2022. A 5-point Likert scale of agreement was used and the opportunity to include free text responses was provided in the first round. Findings: Fifty-five statements reached consensus (defined as >80% agree and strongly agree), across the domains of i) long COVID as a condition, ii) current support and care available for long COVID, iii) clinical assessments for long COVID, and iv) support mechanisms and rehabilitation interventions for long COVID, further sub-categorised by consideration, inclusion, and focus. Consensus reached proposes that long COVID requires specialised, comprehensive support mechanisms and that interventions should form a personalised care plan guided by the needs of the patients. Supportive approaches should focus on individual symptoms, including but not limited to fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and dyspnoea, utilising pacing, fatigue management, and support returning to daily activities. The mental impact of living with long COVID, tolerance to physical activity, emotional distress and well-being, and research of pre-existing conditions with similar symptoms, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis, should also be considered when supporting people with long COVID. Interpretation: We provide an outline that achieved consensus with stakeholders that could be used to inform the design and implementation of bespoke long COVID support mechanisms. Funding: None.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102145
Number of pages9
JournaleClinicalMedicine
Volume62
Early online date9 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Chronic disease
  • Functional status
  • Global health
  • Lived experience
  • Long COVID
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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