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VUMC creates new Adult Post-acute COVID Clinic

Apr. 8, 2021, 8:59 AM


by Paul Govern

On March 15, a new clinic opened at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Adult Post-acute COVID Clinic. With no single location, the clinic is a coordinated service across adult general medicine and medical specialty clinics, with a telemedicine component to facilitate initial patient assessments in most cases.

While most patients achieve complete recovery from COVID-19 within a few weeks, some experience long-term effects. At the start of the pandemic, VUMC established a program to provide ready access to care for patients recovering at home from COVID-19. The new clinic provides additional resources for patients with lingering or late symptoms.

The clinic is expressly for adult patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, with at least four weeks having passed since their COVID diagnosis.

“Because there’s been a large amount of discussion around what symptoms are attributable to long COVID, or post-acute COVID, for the time being it was best to focus this new program on those patients who have recently had confirmed acute disease,” said Cecelia Theobald, MD, associate professor of Medicine and vice chair for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Medicine. “The new clinic serves in part to ensure that we provide a place to hear these patients and validate their experience as we learn more about this new syndrome.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most commonly reported long-term COVID-19 symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain. With regard to other lingering complications, which are listed by the CDC as less commonly reported, the applicable services range from general medicine to cardiology, pulmonology, infectious diseases, physical medicine and rehabilitation, nephrology, dermatology, neurology and psychiatry. These less common complaints include muscle pain, headache, intermittent fever, heart palpitations, inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), lung function abnormalities, acute kidney injury, rash and hair loss, anxiety, difficulty with thinking and concentration, depression, changes in mood, and problems with smell, taste, sleep and memory.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, patients can call the Vanderbilt COVID hotline, (888) 312-0847, and select option 2 to link to the new clinic’s nurse telephone triage process. During the call, based on patient responses to a list of questions, nurses will schedule evaluation either by an internist (via telemedicine) or a specialist (in person or via telemedicine, at the discretion of the given specialty service). The COVID hotline operates seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to Sara Martin, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, who worked with Theobald to get the clinic operating, post-acute COVID patients needn’t have a referral from a clinician and are welcome to call the clinic directly to talk with a nurse and schedule an appointment.

“We expect to see not only patients who were really sick during their original bout with COVID, but also some who maybe weren’t sick enough to have been admitted to the hospital but have gone on to develop chronic symptoms that are interfering with their recovery,” Martin said.

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