As another wave of mass COVID-19 infections spreads across the globe, healthcare workers and health systems have again been rapidly brought to the burst point. While there are regional and local differences in affliction and response, the numbers of people infected are soaring. With this, the numbers of deaths have also climbed. However, perhaps a sliver of a silver lining is that investigators have shared their learnings from last spring, and pharmacotherapy regimens have helped speed recovery. And soon COVID-19 vaccines, now successfully emerging from phase 3 trials, will become a clinical reality. Combined with the recent approval of an at-home testing kit, the pandemic may enter a new phase.
Notwithstanding these developments, much remains unknown about SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as why some people develop serious COVID-19 infections, versus others who don’t, and what the long-term consequences are for those infected. Regarding the former, new reports continue to emerge, such as those linking anticytokine therapies for inflammatory bowel disorders to potential COVID-19 protection, and the significantly worse prognosis for patients who develop pulmonary emboli. Regarding the long-term consequences, emerging reports highlight the early symptoms that portend the likelihood of patients having a case of COVID-19 that lingers far longer than that of most patients. Moreover, it is now clear that some of these patients not only have persistent symptoms like fatigue, but also chronic cardiac and other organ system disorders.
Concomitant with better management of the current surge and the impending deployment of vaccines, Chip Truwit, MD, FACR, Chief Medical Officer for Precision Diagnosis at Philips, sees the role of precision diagnosis ultimately evolving beyond the trenches of critical COVID-19 care and into a new role that helps health care providers better manage patients’ disease burdens, while also facilitating new research that will help influence how healthcare workers handle the next pandemic.
“Investigators have learned a lot about how to treat and manage COVID-19 patients in the past nine months,” Truwit said. “But it’s important that the medical and scientific communities do not stop learning about this disease and generating new data related to the pandemic – whether that’s through chest CT scans or anonymized ultrasound data in the cloud or looking at thrombi and correlating demographics with clinical outcomes. These kinds of data will be foundational to the population health studies that will drive advances in the future care of COVID-19. Additionally, we will eventually reach a phase where, for some cohort of patients, the consequence of COVID-19 becomes one of more chronic disorders, requiring on-going therapies. How rapidly the medical and scientific communities adapt to that reality will have significant impacts on patients, families, workplaces and societies.”