Using Virtual Care to Prevent the Spread of Superbugs Like Coronavirus
How Care Providers Can Use Telehealth to Isolate Infectious Disease Patients
Both the U.S. and the World Health Organization have declared the coronavirus a public health emergency. While there are only 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. as of the first week of February, the virus has already taken nearly 500 lives in mainland China after it appeared in an open-air market in Wuhan, a major trading hub in Central China’s Hubei province.
Public health officials maintain that the threat to the American public remains low, but care providers are doing everything they can to prevent new cases here in the U.S. This often means treating patients in isolation to prevent the spread of infection. U.S. citizens returning from China’s Hubei Province will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC is currently monitoring over 120 possible cases of the coronavirus, including those that have been in contact with infected patients since their return from China.
What We Know About the Coronavirus
Among the 12 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., the first two cases of person-to-person transmission have been recorded. The virus has largely affected animals up until recently when it appears to have jumped the species barrier, quickly spreading from person to person. Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms tend to appear two to 14 days after initial exposure.
According to the CDC, it remains unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. The virus typically spreads from person to person when an infected individual is within 6 feet of another person. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, they produce respiratory droplets that can infect other individuals. It’s not clear if someone can get the virus just by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
This lack of information makes it extremely difficult for care providers to treat patients infected with the virus or those suspected of having the virus. Care providers need to go to extreme lengths to make sure they do not come into contact with the virus when treating their patients.
How Virtual Care Can Help
Care providers can use telehealth and digital healthcare tools to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus. Gloves and surgical masks can only do so much to prevent the spread of disease-causing bacteria. Surgical masks do not protect against airborne bacteria, so they won’t prevent the virus from spreading. If a care provider was to get infected with the coronavirus, it may take several days for their symptoms to appear. They could unintentionally infect dozens, if not hundreds, of patients and their colleagues in the meantime.
That’s why providers are using virtual care devices to care for coronavirus patients. Instead of having providers care for infected patients directly, the device can administer care to patients without the risk of exposure.
The first known case of the virus in the United States remains under quarantine at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. The InTouch Vici device comes into the room several times a day to check up on the patient. It uses a built-in stethoscope to check the patient’s vitals. It also has an HD video screen that providers can use to communicate directly with the patient. Doctors can ask the patient how they’re feeling, instruct them on how to use the device, and talk to them about possible treatment methods.
When managing the outbreak of a deadly virus, telehealth adds another layer of safety to the treatment process. Providers don’t have to endanger themselves or other patients when caring for patients infected with the coronavirus. They can fully isolate their patients until they recover from the virus, limiting the spread of airborne bacteria.
Care providers and facility administrators can’t afford to take risks when caring for coronavirus patients, especially when they’re still learning about how the virus spreads from person to person.
New cases of the coronavirus continue to emerge across the globe. In addition to the thousands of cases in China, there are more than 170 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in more than 20 countries outside mainland China. Experts estimate that a coronavirus vaccine would take at least a year to reach the public. Healthcare facilities should consider investing in the latest technology to prevent the spread of disease. It’s the safest way to care for quarantined patients, so providers don’t have to put themselves at risk.