In a recent study, scholars did a prospective review of charts of nearly 300 adult patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at Michigan Medicine during the pandemic's first wave between March and April 2020. They analyzed discharge locations, therapy needs at the time of release and if they needed durable medical equipment or other services..

The investigators found that 45 percent of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 experienced significant functional decline after being discharged.

Of survivors who experienced functional decline, 80 percent were referred for additional therapy after being discharged. Nearly 20 percent of all patients lost so much ability, they were not able to live independently after their release.

The number could be far higher. The study period occurred in the pandemic's infancy, as health care providers sought best practices to minimize exposures and manage patient overflow - they needed to get people in and out. As a result, 40 percent of patients never had a rehabilitation evaluation while hospitalized. 

The “first wave” study is a snapshot look at acute therapy needs during a time when knowledge of the unique virus was even more limited. The team hopes for additional research examining the long-term effects COVID has on functionality. However, health systems can use the current data to optimize rehabilitation evaluations and prepare resources for this underserved population