In the nearly seven months since COVID-19 arose throughout communities in New Jersey, many survivors of the virus are now finding recovery to be elusive.
Whether their initial infections were severe or mild, many COVID survivors are now experiencing a wide-ranging combination of persistent conditions, such as fatigue, difficulty breathing, joint and chest pain and more. Each patient can have a different combination of conditions, many of which have lasted far beyond the course of traditional illness – some of them for months, now.
For many of these patients, informally known among the medical community as “long-haulers,” the challenge of figuring out how to manage these conditions has introduced yet another confounding dimension to this pandemic.
“These patients are each having a unique and unprecedented experience, for which there is no one, singular roadmap,” said Fred Cerrone, MD, of Pulmonary and Allergy Associates, part of Atlantic Health System’s Atlantic Medical Group. “Many of them can end up feeling as though they are going through this alone.”
In an effort to help this growing patient population, Atlantic Health System, a leading provider of health care in New Jersey, has launched the Atlantic COVID Recovery Center, a multidisciplinary program based in Cedar Knolls and Summit.
“By putting together a team of specialists from throughout our network, we can seamlessly connect and navigate these patients to the care they need, and work to help speed their recovery,” said Scott Lauter, MD, chief medical officer for Atlantic Medical Group.
The center provides a central point for patients to seek care, working with health care providers to design an individualized, tailored plan for recovery and guide them to the medical specialists who help them carry it out.
“It can be challenging enough for the average patient to find their way to the right provider for just one condition; that challenge grows exponentially more frustrating when you’re dealing with several at once,” said David Sousa, MD, also of Pulmonary and Allergy Associates, the offices of which will serve as triage locations for the Recovery Center. “These patients truly need an approach that is holistic and individualized.”
Guiding patients to the appropriate specialist within the network will be a patient care coordinator, who will also coordinate all follow up care including arranging any referrals or authorizations for testing. The care coordinator will also ensure patients have had their follow-ups and relay any additional notes to health care providers.
Specialties and disciplines involved will include pulmonary, cardiology, neurology, rehabilitation medicine and primary care. With some findings showing the prevalence of depression symptoms in the United States has more than tripled since the pandemic began, the Recovery Center will also include Atlantic Behavioral Health specialists as part of patients’ care. In addition, the Center offers a peer support program geared for patients who were treated in intensive care units, and will offer another for those who were not.
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