An Australian-first research initiative into the emergence and prevalence of Long COVID in primary care, and how this can be best managed in general practice, will be the focus of a new project by the Digital Health Collaborative Research Centre (DHCRC) in collaboration with Outcome Health, Macquarie University and four Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
Using deidentified General Practice data extracted through Outcome Health’s POLAR system, from 700+ practices, supporting over three million Australians across two Victorian PHNs – Eastern Melbourne PHN and South East Melbourne PHN; and two NSW PHNs – Central and Eastern Sydney PHN and South Western PHN, Macquarie University will look to understand how Long COVID is presented in general practice and treated by clinicians with the ultimate goal to develop a set of best practice recommendations surrounding Long COVID care in general practice.
The project extends a collaborative partnership between DHCRC, Outcome Health, Macquarie University and the PHNs to address areas of neglect arising from COVID-19.
DHCRC CEO Annette Schmiede welcomed the continued collaboration as a way to further understand and respond to the most devastating health crisis of our generation.
“The earlier DHCRC project by Outcome Health and Macquarie University working with the PHNs contributed to a greater understanding of how COVID-19 impacted general practice,” Ms Schmiede said. “As COVID-19 becomes a norm in clinical settings, understanding its impact on general practice will allow us to improve clinical workflows in primary care, leading to better patient outcomes.”
“This new project will look to deepen our knowledge of Long COVID. We know very little about Long COVID and as such collaborations like this are critical to deepen our understanding of the symptoms and ultimately provide better care to the growing number of Australians that experience Long COVID.”
Outcome Health Director of Research Associate Professor Chris Pearce said General Practitioners (GPs) are on the front line dealing with Long COVID but there is very little understanding or support to help diagnose, let alone treat patients exhibiting with what can be a broad array of symptoms.
“The challenge is that evidence-based research in Long COVID is limited, which in turn leads to minimal awareness around the condition. By more deeply understanding how GPs identify and classify Long COVID we can increase the evidence pool in this area and in turn advance research in Long COVID,” Associate Professor Pearce said.
“Long COVID affects each patient differently, symptoms could be respiratory, cardiac or neurological and making a direct link back to COVID as the cause is not always easy, possible or correct.”
“We are investing into this project with the hope we can support GPs in better understanding Long COVID and ultimately help them better care for their patients suffering this new, but chronic, condition.”
“Our earlier collaboration was very much in the depths of COVID-19 lockdowns and was a ground-breaking initiative to get almost real time insight into the impact of COVID,” said Macquarie University Professor Andrew Georgiou from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation.
“As we move into a period of living with COVID this will mean different things for different people and understanding what the impacts of Long COVID are, and how GPs can treat them, will be critical to the long-term health of many Australians.”
On behalf of the PHN’s Dr Galina Daraganova welcomed the partnership: “As stewards of the data, and facilitators of the relationship between GP’s and researchers, PHNs consider enabling this type of research to be important in supporting the development of General Practice and its capacity to deliver improved health outcomes to our communities.”