Study Finds Long COVID More Prevalent Than EHR Codes Indicate

May 23, 2024
Analysis of NHS data in England suggests serious limitations in using electronic health records as the only measure of long COVID.

A study in eClinical Medicine suggests that “long COVID is likely much more prevalent than indicated in electronic health record (EHR) diagnostic or referral codes.” CIDRAP has the news.

Researchers analyzed National Health Service data in England from over 19 million adults from November 2020 to January 2023. Of those patients, 55,465 patients were flagged for long COVID – 20,025 received diagnostic codes and 35,440 received referral codes. New long COVID incidence rose during 2021, peaking in January 2022 and then declining.

In comparison to these records, 2.1 million people “self-reported having long COVID in the proactively sampled Office for National Statistics community infection survey in January 2023.” The researchers asserted that “the number of recorded long COVID cases in primary care is an order of magnitude below the estimated incidence of long COVID in England given the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections.”

Rates of long COVID were “highest for women, those aged 40 to 60 years, White patients, those with at least one underlying medical condition, and people who continued to take infection-prevention precautions because they were at high-risk for severe COVID-19. Crude rates of long-COVID records were lowest in recipients of at least three vaccine doses and lower in those who received an mRNA vaccine as their first dose.”

The authors of the study concluded that “there are serious limitations with simply using EHR records as a measure of long COVID, and alternative approaches may be preferable.”

About the Author

Matt MacKenzie | Associate Editor

Matt is Associate Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.