The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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Experts caution that the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus might continue to evolve in unexpected ways and a new variant might arise because many precautions against transmission have been abandoned (e.g. masking and social distancing) and clinical trials are showing waning vaccine-induced immunity.

Despite the majority of current COVID-19 cases being mild, most available treatments are for people with severe disease or increased risk of hospitalization. Researchers exploring treatments for milder COVID-19 cases hope that clearing mild infections more quickly could slow viral mutation by breaking transmission routes.

Evidence suggests that the risk of experiencing post-COVID conditions (PCC) might be similar across all disease severities. A recent study, not peer reviewed, found spike protein present in patients’ blood for up to 12 months after initial infection, suggesting a lingering viral reservoir. Investigations are striving to better classify these PCC patients for improved diagnosis and management (see leveraging big data in Topics to Watch). And the US Department of Labor (DOL) has launched an online forum for employees and employers to explore and address the challenges of this “mass disabling event.”

Details on the consequences to overall US health during the pandemic continue to emerge, from accelerated antimicrobial resistance to increased prescribing of mental health drugs (see Topics to Watch for a nonpharmaceutical alternative). Meanwhile, monkeypox continues its global spread with concerns about containment, a shortage of vaccines, delayed test results, high hurdles to obtain treatment, and a shortage of funding for sexual health clinics.

Leveraging Big Data to Improve Diagnosis of Post-COVID-19 Conditions

At a Glance

  • Symptom variability of post-COVID conditions (PCC; commonly referred to as long COVID) and symptom similarity to those of other conditions have complicated diagnosis of PCC. A need exists for standardized, evidence-based diagnostic criteria.
  • Using modern computation techniques to analyze patient health, so-called big data may reveal new patterns and insights that could inform our understanding of the distinct clinical manifestations of PCC.
  • National efforts curating big datasets include the National COVID Cohort Collaborative, All of Us Program, and Million Veterans Project.
  • Using big data, recent research supports the feasibility of using computational algorithms to identify PCC in adults and children, enroll patients in relevant clinical trials, and guide treatment as options become available.

Virtual Reality to Support the Mental Wellbeing of Health Care Workers

At a Glance

  • The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant psychological distress to the general public, with frontline health care workers experiencing high rates of stress, anxiety, and burnout.
  • Virtual reality (VR) might be a scalable intervention to help healthcare workers recover from psychological distress and promote ongoing mental wellbeing.
  • These electronic interventions are being developed and investigated for use outside of clinical settings to mitigate psychological distress. Examples are Ohio University's Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab’s Tranquil Cinematic-VR and Reulay Inc's VR simulations.
  • A growing evidence base suggests that VR might reduce short-term stress and anxiety and improve a sense of mental well-being among health care workers.
  • The cost of VR headsets is estimated to be from $150 for mid-range equipment to upwards of $400.

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Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to

Posted: July 28, 2022

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