The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need for autonomous healthcare as frontline physicians and medical personnel struggle to handle overloaded hospitals and overflow facilities. It is imperative to keep non-emergent patients out of emergency rooms and simultaneously empower physicians to deliver diagnoses via telemedicine.
The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at the Baylor College of Medicine supports and funds health research that solves the challenges of human deep space exploration. The Institute gets its funding from NASA’s Human Research Program.
Remote diagnostics will be required to care for astronauts in deep space yet it is incredibly relevant to quarantined populations. It assists healthcare providers see all the possible conditions a patient might have. Remote care helps patient get care while still at home.
The VisualDx’s app combines machine learning with clinical data to accurately diagnose a number of medical conditions. The technology has been implemented by tens of thousands of providers and in more than 2,300 hospitals and large clinics globally. In response to emergent needs of the pandemic, the company modified the app to contain the information needed to differentiate between COVID-19, the flu or a common cold.
“Telemedicine is now a requirement if we are to deliver quality care for all patients during this global health crisis,” said Art Papier, VisualDx CEO. “VisualDx is uniquely suited to provide preparedness in critical situations such as COVID-19 and support everyday clinical complaints.”
The VisualDx app requires internet connectivity so TRISH supported transferring the software onto a local computer so it can be used by astronauts on the way to Mars and by healthcare workers in places where internet access is limited.
“Now more than ever, we’re seeing how the research we fund to help our astronauts survive deep space missions has immediate impact for all of us on Earth,” TRISH director Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D. explained. “During deep space missions astronauts will need to rely on technology like VisualDx’s app, to self-diagnosis health issues when access to a physician might not be possible.”
VisualDx has COVID-19 resources available to the public on their website.
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Response from Art Papier, MD, CEO, VisualDx
As the public is ordered to stay home to flatten the curve, healthcare systems are tasked to ‘raise the line’ by increasing staffing, adding beds, and moving to a telehealth model to keep patients out of hospitals. Clinicians who are not on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response are being asked to help assist the rest of medicine. During these virtual care visits, it’s critical for these clinicians to utilize clinician decision support software to aid in diagnosis and keep as many patients out of the acute care setting. These software systems can not only help triage cases of COVID-19 but also help quickly and accurately treat patients presenting with other conditions that still require care. Clinical decision support also supplements telehealth services to improve the patient experience, ease patient anxieties, and reduce some administrative burden for providers.
Response from Chris Caulfield, RN, NP-C, co-founder and chief nursing officer, IntelyCare
As a result of COVID-19, demand for healthcare professionals is at an all-time high, with nurses on the front lines providing care to patients in need. In this unprecedented time, nursing and other healthcare professionals need their provider organizations more than ever to support and protect them. One significant aspect of keeping nurses and their patients safe is COVID-19 education. The virus is rapidly evolving and nurses don’t always have time to find and walk through new COVID-19 protocols before each shift. Organizations can offer and promote online learning so that nurses can complete training on their devices and on their own time, and so facilities can ensure the entire workforce is well-equipped to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Another way to protect facilities, staff, and patients from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 is the implementation of an online symptom screening that enables workers to remotely verify whether or not they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Nurses that are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can be removed from the shift without penalty, which can prevent the further spread of the virus to other nurses and the vulnerable populations they’re treating.
Response from Erin Jospe, MD, chief medical officer, Kyruus
With health systems needing to respond nimbly to the rapidly evolving landscape of caring for patients in the midst of a public health crisis, the key, as with any crisis, is to pursue a plan of action with thought and purpose. At a time when the majority of people seek healthcare information and services online, this principle and plan must extend to the role of digital access. The promise of digital technology is to leverage it creatively as a force multiplier, and to do so with an eye toward minimizing friction in care delivery and enabling the safest care possible. In the ambulatory setting, there are three distinct populations we need to think about servicing this way.
The first is the general population needing guidance on safely assessing their health while physically staying in their homes if at all possible. This is best achieved through the interplay of screening tools and virtual assistants with appropriate triaging for 1) those who can safely obtain self-care instruction 2) those who should have additional assessment through a combination of virtual appointments and direction for screening tests if warranted and 3) those who require immediate direction to the closest hospital or care facility. Screening engagement platforms, in conjunction with telemedicine, can decompress call centers, thereby freeing up staff, and help keep more patients safely at home.
In addition, more clinical staff can work remotely to provide virtual visits, maximizing the use of dwindling PPE resources for those who continue to serve on the front lines in direct patient contact. Digital technology can thus similarly benefit this second population, your health system staff and clinicians, by respecting their need for technology that works for and with them, promotes their physical safety, and conserves increasingly limited resources.
The third key population is patients with non-COVID medical needs, who require attention and outreach to help maintain their health. Digital platforms (e.g., telemedicine, automated outreach) can play an important role in keeping these patients well-informed, monitored, and safe, with clear access to information, both static and offered dynamically through real-time interactions when needed. Furthermore, those with chronic conditions that can become increasingly complex if left unchecked and where compliance issues may be exacerbated due to economic pressures, must be supported during this time even in the absence of acute symptoms – for their own well-being and to minimize the need to compete for scarce complex care resources.
While we all struggle to act quickly under these exceptional circumstances, using your digital investments to speak creatively to the needs of these populations is not only possible, it is necessary.
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