Development, deployment and evaluation of digitally enabled, remote, supported rehabilitation for people with long COVID-19 (Living With COVID-19 Recovery): protocol for a mixed-methods study

E Murray, H Goodfellow, J Bindman, Ann Blandford, K Bradbury, T Chaudhry, D Fernandez-Reyes, M Gomes, FL Hamilton, M Heightman
in BMJ Open, Journal article


INTRODUCTION: Long COVID-19 is a distressing, disabling and heterogeneous syndrome often causing severe functional impairment. Predominant symptoms include fatigue, cognitive impairment ('brain fog'), breathlessness and anxiety or depression. These symptoms are amenable to rehabilitation delivered by skilled healthcare professionals, but COVID-19 has put severe strain on healthcare systems. This study aims to explore whether digitally enabled, remotely supported rehabilitation for people with long COVID-19 can enable healthcare systems to provide high quality care to large numbers of patients within the available resources. Specific objectives are to (1) develop and refine a digital health intervention (DHI) that supports patient assessment, monitoring and remote rehabilitation; (2) develop implementation models that support sustainable deployment at scale; (3) evaluate the impact of the DHI on recovery trajectories and (4) identify and mitigate health inequalities due to the digital divide. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Mixed-methods, theoretically informed, single-arm prospective study, combining methods drawn from engineering/computer science with those from biomedicine. There are four work packages (WP), one for each objective. WP1 focuses on identifying user requirements and iteratively developing the intervention to meet them; WP2 combines qualitative data from users with learning from implementation science and normalisation process theory, to promote adoption, scale-up, spread and sustainability of the intervention; WP3 uses quantitative demographic, clinical and resource use data collected by the DHI to determine illness trajectories and how these are affected by use of the DHI; while WP4 focuses on identifying and mitigating health inequalities and overarches the other three WPs. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval obtained from East Midlands - Derby Research Ethics Committee (reference 288199). Our dissemination strategy targets three audiences: (1) Policy makers, Health service managers and clinicians responsible for delivering long COVID-19 services; (2) patients and the public; (3) academics. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: Research Registry number: researchregistry6173.