UPMC Launches COVID-19 Rehab Program in Italy

By: Francesca Valagussa

Modeled after a clinic UPMC developed in Pittsburgh, the Post-COVID 19 Rehabilitation Program in Italy will give patients in the Tuscany region individualized, integrated care to treat the lingering effects of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, returning to everyday life as it was prior to COVID-19 is not often easy,” said Dr. Giovanni Vizzini, chief operating officer and medical and scientific director of UPMC in Italy. “A negative test shows a patient has overcome the infection, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have overcome the disease. Numerous studies have confirmed the need for early rehabilitation in those affected by long-term symptoms.”

The new program at the UPMC Institute for Health Chianciano Terme includes a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, physical therapists, pneumologists, nutritionists and psychologists who assess and treat motor, respiratory, metabolic and neurologic conditions. The program is customized for each patient, and it incorporates integrative therapies such as mindfulness, music therapy and meditative exercise with yoga, tai chi and qigong.

“Our first priority is to reverse the respiratory deficit, but we must not forget the cognitive and emotional damages this infection causes,” said Vizzini. “Today more than ever, recovery programs can no longer be seen as an ancillary service. This is the only way to prevent the disabilities COVID-19 causes from becoming chronic and increasing national health care costs.”

The UPMC Institute for Health also offers telemedicine services for continuing motivational, nutritional and physical therapy using remote monitoring and data collection tools. The intensity and duration of the program varies, depending on the severity of a patient’s post-COVID symptoms.