WHO Study Recommends Rehabilitation after COVID-19

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rehabilitation after covid-19

A new scientific brief released by the World Health Organization confirms what we at Encompass Health have witnessed first-hand — patients recovering from COVID-19 often need rehabilitation to help them regain their independence.

Since the start of the pandemic, Encompass Health rehabilitation hospitals have treated more than 30,000 patients recovering from COVID-19. Many of these patients were on ventilators for an extended period of time and had long ICU stays. They left the acute care hospital weak, unable to walk or complete what used to be simple, daily tasks. Our multidisciplinary approach to care helped these patients regain their mental and physical abilities, so they could return to their communities and pre-COVID lives.

So how specifically does inpatient rehabilitation help those recovering from COVID-19? Here are three findings from the WHO brief that confirm the need for rehabilitation after COVID-19:

  • Patients recovering from severe cases of COVID-19 often have Post-Intensive Care Syndrome, or PICS. PICS refers to the symptoms many have after a long ICU stay. They include physical deconditioning and cognitive and mental health impairments. Inpatient rehabilitation can serve these patients in a variety of ways. First, they are likely to need round-the-clock nursing in the interim, as well as frequent evaluations from a rehabilitation physician. This is all provided in the inpatient rehabilitation setting. There, patients will also receive three hours of therapy a day, five days a week. Physical therapists can help patients build up their strength; occupational therapists can help patients work on those everyday tasks, such as grooming and preparing meals; and speech therapists can address cognitive impairments.
  • Complications from hospitalized COVID-19 patients include stroke, which multiple studies show, inpatient rehabilitation is a superior setting for these patients to receive care. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s adult stroke rehabilitation guidelines state that, “whenever possible, initial rehabilitation should take place in an inpatient rehabilitation facility rather than a nursing home.”
  • Individuals with Post COVID-19 Condition, meaning they have prolonged symptoms—some new and some returning—long after their initial infection, could need some form of rehabilitation. According to the WHO brief, these individuals could require “a person-centered, comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach” to care, which could include breathing exercises, physical and occupational therapy and cognitive training. All of these services are provided at inpatient rehabilitation hospitals.

While more and more research such as the WHO brief are confirming the need for rehabilitation after COVID-19, we think our patient success stories are the best proof of how inpatient rehabilitation has helped so many recovering from COVID-19. I’m proud of the role our hospitals and dedicated clinicians and staff have played in helping patients recover from COVID-19 and get back to what matters most to them.