Doctors repurposing medical devices and apps for COVID-19

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Health care workers around the world have risen to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with creative solutions, from 3D-printing face shields, ventilator parts and nasopharyngeal swabs, to repurposing home breathing machines as makeshift ventilators. Physicians and researchers in Canada are adapting health technologies to triage and monitor patients with COVID-19, too.

When the pandemic hit, Dr. Anthony Tang of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Network of Canada was working on an e-health platform for patients with arrhythmias, including those with implantable cardiac devices. Patients with these devices require regular follow-up, and the platform, called VIRTUES, allows them to monitor how their device is functioning and other health information.

With the pandemic delaying a randomized controlled trial of the platform, Tang says he couldn’t “waste time doing nothing.” So, he and his colleagues adapted the technology to monitor patients with COVID-19 who are isolating at home.

Patients can use an app to log their symptoms, including oxygen saturation and pulse rate, and communicate with their care team to avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments and clinics. Meanwhile, clinicians can review trends in their patients’ recoveries to help identify those that may require hospitalization.

London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario launched a pilot of the platform in September last year, and since then, more than 300 patients in London, Ottawa, Kitchener and Waterloo have used the tool. While an evaluation of the platform is ongoing, Tang says it appears to be working well. “There have been several patients who have avoided hospitalization with the aid of this monitoring and, alternatively, patients have been brought into hospital who needed more care.”

Source: CMAJ News