In just a few short weeks, Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has gone from a disease that most of us had never heard of to being declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
So far, the early death toll has been faster than that for swine flu or SARS, and the infection rate has accelerated much more rapidly as well. It’s no wonder that there is so much urgency around uncovering, containing and addressing it.
Part of what makes detection and containment difficult, though, is that its early signs mimic those of the common cold or standard flu, i.e., fever, cough and shortness of breath. In some cases, there are barely any symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although in other cases, patients fall deathly ill almost immediately.
Fortunately, the ground zero for the new coronavirus was identified quickly, enabling the CDC, WHO, and other agencies to begin mobilizing global resources to control its spread. Still, the potential for a much more virulent outbreak exists as those who have been infected and exhibit only minor symptoms continue to go about their lives, potentially infecting others.
Vivify recognizes the risk, which is why we reacted quickly to develop a new Coronavirus Pathway so providers who use our remote patient monitoring (RPM) platform can share with their patients the ability to self-screen. We have been distributing the Pathway free to providers to help them reduce the health risks to all their patients, but especially those whose lives are at greatest risk such as the elderly and small children whose immune systems are not fully developed.
The Pathway asks questions such as whether patients have traveled to China within 14 days of their symptoms appearing (or been in contact with anyone who has been there) and whether they are experiencing specific symptoms. Other healthcare technology vendors have addressed coronavirus through their EHRs to help protect clinicians, staff and other patients when a patient presents in-person to a facility. Only in Vivify’s case the risk is further minimized by addressing the issue in the patients’ homes rather than the facility.
If the answer to any of those screening questions is “yes,” the Pathway asks additional probing questions and then provides instructions on what to do next, including contacting their primary care or other physician and reporting it to the CDC. The information also appears in the Vivify portal so the physician will know to proactively reach out to the patient and to direct them to the CDC.
If treatment is to be provided in the office or other facility, the physician can direct them to a specific area that has been set up especially to keep those who potentially are carrying coronavirus away from other patients and to enable clinicians to take the proper precautions for themselves.
This isn’t the first time Vivify has taken the lead when an infectious disease threatens the larger U.S. population, incidentally. Our Ebola Pathway and RPM platform were important contributors to helping contain the spread of that major health threat in 2014.
Of course, patients who are participating in RPM programs through their provider are being actively monitored for these symptoms as well, and if there are any concerns when the data comes back through the Vivify portal the provider who is monitoring them will be notified and prompted to contact the CDC immediately. Physicians or nurse care managers will also use this information to contact other providers, such as physical or occupational therapists, social workers, and home health workers who typically come into contact with these patients to advise them to stay away until a diagnosis is either confirmed or denied.
This is what Vivify is doing here, today, to address the immediate threat. But we foresee a future that is even more proactive and better able to contain such outbreaks.
Imagine if physicians were to establish some measure of direct engagement, such as monitoring vital signs through a smartwatch and enabling video chat with all their patients. When the next life-threatening outbreak comes – and there will always be another – or a natural disaster poses a threat, rather than searching for information online all patients would receive important information directly from their physicians.
The system would act like an “Amber Alert” or the emergency warnings many municipalities are implementing to warn their citizens of danger. Important information would be sent to everyone at once so they could address the issue or prepare for it properly rather than reacting once the threat is already present.
If you are exhibiting the symptoms of coronavirus, we advise that you take it seriously. If you have access, take advantage of Vivify’s new Pathway to learn more and perform a self-assessment. If you do not, the safe move is to contact your physician and, if necessary, the CDC.
Together we can contain this outbreak and mitigate its effect before more serious damage is done.