Doctors at UC Davis Health and around the country are finding that some patients who survive COVID-19 continue to battle an array of lingering, often difficult-to-understand symptoms.
In response, UC Davis Health has launched the region’s first Post-COVID-19 Clinic to provide streamlined, comprehensive specialty care for these "long-haul" patients. UC Davis Health is one of only a handful of health systems in the U.S. to create a clinic that cares for patients whose symptoms persist, sometimes for months, with no clear avenue for treatment.
“It’s frustrating and frightening for them. With this clinic, we can provide a much-needed service to our patients and our community,” said Mark Avdalovic, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine and UC Davis Health associate professor of clinical medicine. “There are many who are still suffering a wide array of symptoms despite being many weeks out from the initial infection, and they don’t know why. They deserve to have these symptoms evaluated in a systematic fashion.”
Patients will primarily be seen at UC Davis Health’s J Street location (between 28th and 29th streets), where the health system’s pulmonary medicine specialists and therapies are based. Patients may also be seen at one of the regional UC Davis community health clinics for their convenience. The new clinic is open to anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who is at least 30 days past the first appearance of their symptoms.
Responding to a need
The concept grew out of the experiences of UC Davis Health physicians who are seeing a growing number of patients whose initial battles with COVID-19 are behind them, yet they continue to deal with respiratory issues, heart and vascular problems, fatigue, neurological concerns and more.
There are no precise statistics on the number of patients who, in theory, have recovered from the worst impacts of the coronavirus, tested negative, but still have symptoms lasting weeks or months. Studies estimate that about 10% of COVID-19 patients end up facing long-term symptoms, which is in line with what UC Davis Health is seeing.
— Mark Avdalovic
“They’re anxious and confused, and they want to know if anything is really wrong with them,” Avdalovic said. “Rather than going from doctor to doctor and not getting all of their issues examined at once, our goal is to evaluate them comprehensively, find the causes and add other UC Davis specialists to their care teams as needed.”
Rare combination of expert care and research
The region’s top experts in patient-focused pulmonary health will lead those multidisciplinary teams. A majority of long-haul COVID patients will experience a variety of respiratory symptoms but some may have more subtle symptoms that may require additional input from experts in cardiovascular, immunologic and neurologic medicine.
“As pulmonary medicine experts, we are on the front lines of taking care of these patients in our hospital and clinics,” Avdalovic said. “As physicians and researchers, we want to give them, and everyone who’s had COVID-19, a place to go where they can get the kind of help they need today.”
UC Davis Health research also will connect with the clinic. Goals include providing answers to the longer-term care needs of COVID-19 patients and setting standards for that care for the millions of COVID-19 patients worldwide.
“We want to provide a resource to our community that only UC Davis Health can offer and share what we learn with our broader community of colleagues in the U.S. and abroad,” Avdalovic said. “No one else in our region is geared up to offer the whole package of evaluation, care, research and education that we can provide. We have a responsibility to help, because we can.”
Physicians at UC Davis Health and its partner sites can use the electronic medical record (EMR) system to refer their COVID-19 patients to the J Street pulmonary clinic. Physicians and patients from outside of that network can call 1-800-4-UCDAVIS (1-800-482-3284) and select option #3.
More information about UC Davis Health, including its pulmonary medicine team, is available online at health.ucdavis.edu.
Updated Feb. 2 to clarify that Post-COVID-19 patients must have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.