Protecting the health of our patients and healthcare staff during COVID-19
The whole world is currently going through a situation for which it was not prepared, one which threatens our health and lives, and cripples the economy.
From the first recorded case in December 2019 up to September 2020, 30+ million people had become infected and almost 1 million deaths were confirmed. This number could be very different from reality. Differences in testing across countries may also mean that there are underestimates in identifying the condition of infected patients, and the reality may be even worse.
Healthcare workers who are exposed to the virus in the front line are the group at most risk. Whether they are doctors, nurses or medical staff, the consequences of direct contact with COVID-19 can have not only staffing but also economic consequences.
There are thousands of health professionals worldwide who, due to a lack of information, have been exposed to a possible infection, ended up in preventive quarantine, or even paid the highest price.
At Stemi Global, we decided that we needed to address this situation. The main aim of our application remains, of course, the same. To provide rapid professional assistance to patients with suspected heart attacks, strokes, or serious injuries.
We have implemented a new function into our STEMI communication platform that will help EMS crews identify the risk from patients suspected of COVID-19 infection, and where hospitalization is needed due to the COVID-19 infection itself or another acute condition (heart attack, stroke, injury), to prepare healthcare staff at the hospital for their arrival.
THERE ARE TWO POSSIBILITIES IN PRACTICE:
IN THE FIRST CASE
the EMS crew is sent by the operations centre to a person with a suspected COVID 19 infection. In this case, the EMS crew uses the appropriate equipment to prevent themselves becoming infected. Purely for example, preparation of the ambulance, staff, patient transport and subsequent disinfection takes up to 5 hours, so information about suspected infection is really very important for medical staff. Unfortunately, there are also situations where the emergency medical service crew does not have this information in advance and the reason for going to the patient is non-specific symptoms - e.g. headache. The EMS crew suspects COVID 19 infection only on the basis of circumstances found - e.g. fever, the presence of a person with a travel history in the household and so on. This is a difficult situation, as in this case the EMS crew did not primarily use special protective equipment. If the patient's condition requires hospitalization, the destination is usually the COVID department, where the staff are permanently protected and work in “red zone” mode.
IN THE SECOND CASE
the emergency medical service crew is sent to a case with a suspected myocardial infarction, stroke, or serious injury - a condition where every minute counts and patients must be transported urgently to a specialized department. If, based on the circumstances of these patients and on the basis of a special “checklist” in the STEMI application, the rescuer suspects a simultaneous COVID infection (a “combined case”), this is an exceptional situation as specialized department staff are not routinely protected against COVID19 infection, and working with such a patient could lead to the quarantining of a large group of key healthcare workers.
With the help of the early warning system in both cases, the STEMI platform will ensure that hospital staff are informed about the arrival of a patient with a suspected COVID infection. The hospital staff also see the COVID card (“checklist”) filled in by the EMS crew member, the location of the ambulance on the map in advance, and direct telephone contact with the emergency medical staff is also possible. Particularly in this latter case, the time gained enables adequate training and protection of the staff of a specialized hospital centre to be ensured.
SUCCESSES IN PRACTICE:
With the STEMI communication platform, we managed to identify more than 20 cases in Slovakia from April to September this year, where symptoms of Covid-19 infection were identified in conjunction with a suspected heart attack or stroke. This information was sent in advance to health professionals in the specialized centres. In this way we helped to protect the staff in the individual hospital wards and ensure smooth running and at the same time as providing patients with adequate professional care. With the second wave of COVID, the figures keep rising.
Since 2017, STEMI Global has been providing the STEMI communication platform for the whole of Slovakia Republic - for all emergency medical crews, cardiocentres, neurocentres and neurointervention centres, on the basis of a contract with Slovakia’s national operations centre. The COVID functionality was temporarily integrated from April 2020 as a free extension. The TRAUMA module has been highly effective and tested in practice so far only as part of a pilot project in Košice. The national rollout is hoped to take place in 2021.