A perfect match: Tele-rehabilitation as an optimal treatment for post/long-COVID patients
by Verena Kalb at June 01, 2022
Although we appear to be entering a more relaxed phase of the pandemic, and the case numbers stand to sink before summer, many are still suffering from long-term effects following a COVID-19 infection.
Current data shows that post/long-COVID affects approximately 10-20 % of those infected with the virus, and though it mainly occurs after severe illness, some with initially mild symptoms may also be affected. The clinical picture of post/long-COVID is complex, and more attention must be paid to treating symptoms and enabling patients to return to normal life. Although the long-term effects of COVID should not be underestimated, interdisciplinary rehabilitation and aftercare specifically targeting the symptoms stand to have a huge impact for patients. That’s why Caspar Health is working with partner clinics on post/long-COVID programs and providing patients with customized digital therapy solutions.
During a dedicated symposium at the end of April, the German Society for Medical Rehabilitation (DEGEMED) presented new research on the topic of post/long-COVID. Frank Merten, Director of Therapeutics at Caspar Health, attended as an active working member in the field. DEGEMED outlined the results of a recent, comprehensive survey on the topic of post/long-COVID, revealing valuable insights with meaningful consequences for the German rehabilitation landscape. Of the 338 rehabilitation clinics surveyed in Germany, more than half reported treating post/long-COVID patients. What's more, from a medical standpoint, the clinics have developed targeted approaches and therapeutic care for the wide variety of symptoms. Most post/long-COVID patients are treated in the areas of neurology, psychotherapy and psychosomatic therapy, and pulmonary and/or bronchial medicine. (1) Physical activity, psychological exercises, and relaxation are the therapeutic interventions most frequently mentioned.
The survey results showcase the effectiveness of medical rehabilitation for post/long-COVID, and how patients' symptoms can improve following treatment: "Medical rehabilitation for long COVID is effective: a clear majority of the rehabilitation facilities surveyed fully or somewhat agree that physical health (90%) and mental health (94 %), as well as performance (89%) and earning capacity (67 %) improved over the course of rehabilitation for post/long-COVID.” (2) At the same time, this condition has been found to require more post-acute care compared to other illnesses. 72 % of the clinics surveyed that care for post/long-COVID patients* indicated an increased need for follow-up care for patients with this condition. (3)
Rehabilitation treatment for post/long-COVID patients is holistic in nature, and must take the biological, psychological, and social conditions of the patient into account. Furthermore, treatments need to be modified and personalized for each individual. The German Federal Government’s Council of Experts on COVID-19 (ExpertInnenrat der Bundesregierung) concurs: “Right now, effective causal therapy approaches are lacking, which is why treatment is so symptom-focused. This requires close cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary, and multi-professional cooperation. In addition, it’s important to create special rehabilitation plans that incorporate mobile and outreach care options, including telemedicine.” (4)
Figure 1: The most common symptoms of post/long-COVID
Source: Own representation
Telemedicine as a component of post/long-COVID rehabilitation
In light of the Council of Experts’ recommendation to make telemedicine a vital component of specialized rehabilitation plans, it’s clear that Caspar Health's digital aftercare is able to provide exactly that valuable support. We assist clinics in the therapeutic care for post/long-COVID patients and further supporting them with tele-rehabilitation aftercare. The goal is to consolidate, expand, and maintain patients’ therapeutic success in the long term.
A prime example is Caspar Health’s work at the Klinik am Haussee. Here, we are working with the clinic to develop an interdisciplinary approach for treating post/long-COVID patients, offering rehabilitation in an interval-based program. In this context, a COVID-related condition is considered a vascular, multi-system disease – a disorder that affects the vasculature of many organ systems within the body. The various implications of this condition also require an interdisciplinary therapeutic program. With departments of neurology, cardiology, and psychosomatics, the Klinik am Haussee can offer personalized, holistic treatment for its post/long-COVID patients, while the therapeutic medical team of Caspar Health’s virtual clinic creates therapy plans that are tailored to patients’ symptoms and can be adapted easily to their individual needs. (5)
Personalized treatment in rehabilitation and aftercare
Caspar Health offers individual, symptom-specific therapy to post/long-COVID patients in both rehabilitation and aftercare. Thanks to our medical and therapeutic expertise, the multi-professional team of the Caspar Clinic is able to offer patients competent one-on-one care. In addition, patients get the flexibility of organizing their therapy and tele-rehab whenever and wherever they want by performing training therapy exercises from home. They can also access seminars, lectures, and relaxation content at any time.
In closing, it's clear that patients diagnosed with post/long-COVID face unique challenges that require treatment plans tailored to their individual symptoms. At the same time, successes achieved through rehabilitation should also be secured over the long term, making rehabilitation aftercare an essential aspect of this complex clinical picture. The Medical Director of Caspar Health, Dr. med. Filippo Martino, agrees: "For post/long-COVID patients, digital aftercare offers a particularly flexible yet customizable solution. Through personalized, multimodal training, holistic care can be achieved – even for a highly complex condition such as post/long-COVID."
1 Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Rehabilitation e.V. (BAR). Survey of long COVID in medical rehabilitation: Results of a quantitative survey, 2021. Online publication. Frankfurt/Main, October 2021: 23; 33
2 Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Rehabilitation e.V. (BAR). Survey of long COVID in medical rehabilitation: Results of a quantitative survey, 2021. Online publication. Frankfurt/Main, October 2021: 39
3 Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Rehabilitation e.V. (BAR). Survey of long COVID in medical rehabilitation: Results of a quantitative survey, 2021. Online publication. Frankfurt/Main, October 2021: 46
4 Coping with the pandemic. The German Federal Government’s Council of Experts on COVID-19. Available online at: https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/bundesregierung/bundeskanzleramt/corona-expertinnenrat-der-bundesregierung, last checked 24.05.2022.
5 Coping with the pandemic. The German Federal Government’s Council of Experts on COVID-19. Available online at: https://https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/bundesregierung/bundeskanzleramt/corona-expertinnenrat-der-bundesregierung, Last checked 24.05.2022.