The American Medical Association Wednesday advocated for more funding and resources to be directed at understanding the long-term health effects of COVID-19.
The policy, adopted during a special meeting of the AMA's House of Delegates, calls for federal funding to research prevention, control, and treatment of long haul COVID—also known as post-acute sequelae infection, or PASC.
Various studies have shown that between 10% and 30% of patients suffer from long-term symptoms. A JAMA Network study published in February found that 30% of patients who were followed for up to nine months post infection reported persistent symptoms, including fatigue, loss of sense of smell or taste, and brain fog. And a study by FAIR Health showed 19% of individuals who recovered from an asymptomatic COVID-19 inflection developed symptoms of PASC.
For its part, the nation's largest physician's group pledged to partner with medical and education institutions to develop better clinical definitions and assessment for the condition.
"There is much we still don't know about COVID-19," Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, AMA board member, said in a written statement. "Yet, our country currently lacks the necessary resources to adequately support and provide expert care to patients with long-haul COVID."
No specific partnerships have been announced, but the AMA said these collaborations will keep providers aware of any improvements to available information. The group said that more evidence of the condition is needed to help providers recognize symptoms and organize treatment, especially among patients recovering from asymptomatic COVID. But pinpointing how pervasive the condition is has been difficult.
"A large number of asymptomatic people probably escaped attention in the early months of the pandemic, because testing wasn't that widely available," Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, said in a prior interview with Modern Healthcare. "This should alert physicians and other providers to being attentive to those kinds of symptoms, because they may not have had a COVID-19 diagnosis in their chart."
The AMA policy comes on the heels of new guidance from the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advising primary-care providers to develop comprehensive plans to manage treatment for patients suffering from mental and physical symptoms four weeks after their initial COVID infection. The guidelines, released June 14, urged professionals to not rely on laboratory testing to diagnose post-COVID infections. Symptoms of so-called long haulers can range from chronic psychiatric impairments to neurological damage. The most common are body pain and difficulties with breathing, but assessments of the condition are expected to change with more research.