When patients enter a medical emergency room, one of the first steps to treating their illness is triage. Health care providers assess their condition and assign priority levels for their care.
Medical systems worldwide are facing the same challenge during the coronavirus pandemic, “that we need to be able to decentralize care,” said Dr. Sarah de Ramirez, vice president of clinical innovation at Illinois-based OSF HealthCare.
Struggling against a national shortage of supplies, medical systems have been scrambling to roll out solutions to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus to other patients within hospitals and to prepare for the expected surge in coronavirus patients that could overburden facilities.
A mobile app developed by a Towson medical technology firm could help reduce the number of in-person hospital visits for coronavirus and other illnesses by at least 20%, its chief technology officer estimates.
StoCastic, a business start-up that began at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2016, designed the “E-Triage” tool to enable health care providers to triage patients over the phone in order to prioritize their level treatment, including where they are treated, using artificial intelligence.
The app is being rolled out this month through the Pandemic Health Worker Program at OSF HealthCare, which purchased the electronic tool. The goal of the Illinois program is to pare hospital visits by treating patients with COVID-19 in their homes through digital monitoring kits, de Ramirez said.
E-Triage helps determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms and “which direction in the health care system they should go” by assessing that patient’s vulnerability to COVID-19 complications based on underlying health conditions and medical history, their risk of in-hospital mortality, the patient’s demographics and other factors, said Scott Levin, StoCastic’s chief technology officer and an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins.
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The tool is being applied for lower-risk patients, John Vozenilek, vice president of OSF HealthCare, which operates 13 hospitals in Illinois, said in a statement. For those patients, "health care workers will be sent to the patient’s home for further assessment, follow up, and testing,” he said.
Through the program, health workers will drop off kits that include computer tablets and hand sanitizer to monitor quarantined patients for 14 days, the amount of time recommended by health officials for those who have been exposed to the virus.
The E-Triage tool is the first piece of the Pandemic Health Worker Program, de Ramirez said. The program is expected to serve about 8,400 patients in their homes each month, according to OSF HealthCare.
The system also could be used to signal and predict “hotspots” — areas where COVID-19 cases have proliferated — allowing health care units to mobilize more quickly in those areas, de Ramirez said..
A version of the app is already being used in Johns Hopkins Medicine emergency rooms for in-person visits, Levin said.