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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.23.23289798

Primary Care Post-COVID syndrome Diagnosis and Referral Coding

R.Willans G. Allsopp P. Jonsson ...+11 The CONVALESCENCE Collaborative
Introduction - Guidelines for diagnosing and managing Post-COVID syndrome have been rapidly developed. Consistency of the application of these guidelines in primary care is unknown. Electronic health records provide an opportunity to review the use of codes relating to Post-COVID syndrome. This paper explores the use of primary care records as a surrogate uptake measure for NICEs rapid guideline managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 by measuring the use of Post-COVID syndrome diagnosis and referral codes in the pathway. Method - With the approval of NHS England we used routine clinical data from the OpenSafely-EMIS/-TPP platforms. Counts of Post-COVID syndrome diagnosis and referral codes were generated from a cohort of all adults, establishing numbers of diagnoses and referrals following diagnosis. The relationship between Post-COVID syndrome diagnosis and referral codes was explored with reference to NICEs rapid guideline. Results - Of over 45 million patients, 69,220 (0.15%) had a Post-COVID syndrome diagnostic code, and 67,741 (0.15%) had a referral code. 78% of referral codes did not have an associated diagnosis code. 79% of diagnosis codes had no subsequent referral code. Only 18,633 (0.04%) had both. There were higher rates of both diagnosis and referral in those who were more deprived, female and some ethnic groups. Discussion - This study demonstrates variation in diagnosis and referral coding rates for Post-COVID syndrome across different patient groups. The results, with limited crossover of referral and diagnostic codes, suggest only one type of code is usually recorded. Recording one code limits the use of routine data for monitoring Post-COVID syndrome diagnosis and management, but suggests several areas for improvement in coding. Post-COVID syndrome coding, particularly diagnosis coding, needs to improve before administrators and researchers can use it to evaluate care pathways.