Function, disability and recovery after Covid-19: Patient outcomes six and twelve months after diagnosis

Dr Danielle Hitch1,3, Assoc. Prof. Kimberley Haines1,2, Assoc. Prof. Cathy Said1,2, Ms.  Kathryn  Barker1, Ms.  Sarah  Booth1, Ms.  Vanessa Carter1, Ms. Courtney Hiley1, Dr.  Sara  Holton3, Dr.  Melanie  Lloyd1, Ms.  Helen Nelson1, Mr.  Matthew  Thorpe1, Assoc. Prof.  Genevieve  Pepin3, Assoc. Prof.  Harin Karunajeewa1,2

1Western Health, Sunshine, Australia, 2University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 3Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

Western Melbourne was the ‘epicentre’ of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia. This study aims to describe the trajectory of recovery post-Covid-19 diagnosis, with a particular focus on functional outcomes. Data were collected from patients diagnosed with Covid-19 at Western Health six and twelve months after diagnosis, for patients who did and did not require inpatient admission. Intensive care unit patients and aged care residents were excluded, given they are already the subject of intense research interest.  This presentation focuses on the quantitative outcomes of this mixed-methods study, from a fatigue scale and the World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Scale (WHODAS). 544 survey responses (Covid-19 n=68, Control n=476), and 38 interviews were completed to date, with recruitment ongoing. Preliminary analysis indicates only 34% of people with Covid-19 reported a full recovery after six months, with the remainder perceiving incomplete, partial or limited recovery. There are also significant differences between cases and controls for concentration (p=0.01), memory (p=<0.001), cognition (p=0.04), emotional health (p=0.04), and bathing (p=0.03). The between-group differences also exceed the previously established minimally clinically important difference on the WHODAS for 32 (89%) of the scale items. However, no significant differences are reported for fatigue, despite this being a prominent theme within international research regarding ‘Long Covid’. While we have been spared the high case numbers seen in other countries, the Allied Health workforce is ideally placed to ensure the estimated 7,300 – 8,800 Australians experiencing delayed or incomplete Covid-19 recovery achieve their best possible outcomes.


Dr Danielle Hitch is Allied Health Research and Translation Lead at Western Health, and Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Deakin University. Her areas of expertise and interest include implementation science, mental health and social justice.

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