A digital programme to treat the lasting symptoms of Covid-19 has been developed by clinicians from Barts Health in collaboration with UCL researchers and UCL Partners.
It has launched across Barts Health, the first such tool to begin use with patients.
Over 300,000 people have been infected by Covid-19 in the UK but, for many of those that survive however, this is only the start of their journey to recovery.
There are increasing reports of Covid-19 survivors still suffering from debilitating symptoms of tiredness, breathlessness and anxiety many weeks and months after the peak of their infection – a group often known as the Covid-19 ‘long-haulers’.
Many appointments are now carried out virtually and a team led by Barts Health clinicians and UCL health researchers have developed a rehabilitation tool with app developers Living With that can be delivered completely remotely.
Launched last week, the tool combines evidence-based methods from physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians and respiratory physicians to create bespoke treatment plans for each patient. It targets three primary on-going symptoms being reported - fatigue, anxiety and breathing problems.
The tool is an additional aid that complements the existing rehab pathway and patients who do not have access to a smart device will continue to receive traditional printed rehab plans and follow-up.
Dr Paul Pfeffer, respiratory physician at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Queen Mary University of London, said: “The proportion of people needing further help is really high. We’re finding that half of the patients we discharge from hospital, are still experiencing significant symptoms after three months.
“There are simply not enough resources to reach everyone recovering from Covid-19 who are in need of using traditional models of care, such as face-to-face appointments.
“This tool allows us to provide high-quality treatment to large numbers of patients simultaneously.”
Elizabeth Murray, project lead and clinical deputy director at the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, said: “The uniqueness of this tool is that the whole treatment programme is delivered digitally, with remote support from clinicians.
“This benefits patients unable to come into the clinic, but it also allows us to help a far greater number of people in a cost-effective and time-effective way.”
The programme includes an app for patients providing tailored advice, treatment plans and suggested exercises, and also supports clinicians with a dashboard to review patient progress and communicate, and a clinical pathway for how to provide safe, remote support.
The digital tool has been developed by Living With, a digital health company that already delivers a range of remote management products for the NHS.
Physiotherapist Hannah Hylton from St Bartholomew’s Hospital said: “Issues that arise post-Covid are multi-factoral and often debilitating.
“For each person we are able to take a holistic approach to their treatment and provide a personalised plan via the tool, including frequent monitoring and ongoing communication.”
Chris Robson, chief executive of Living With, commented: “We have packaged up life-changing clinical input into an app and are providing it to patients through our existing remote condition management platform, to help them recover safely and comfortably from home.
“This launch with Barts Health is only the first step in turning the product into a smarter AI driven intervention that will be rolled out more widely across the UK.”
The app is in use at Barts Health hospitals, with plans to roll out to UCL Partner hospitals in the near future.
The product is an interdisciplinary collaboration between a range of clinicians and health researchers from Barts Health, UCL, University College London Hospital, University of Southampton, University of Exeter and Living With.
For more information visit the Living With website.