Saturday, March 19, 2022

Virtual Hospital Provides Real Help With COVID-19

Oximeter on my finger. 
I spent a week as a COVID-19 patient of NSW's first virtual hospital, and it was good. Having had a head cold, with runny nose and cough for a couple of days, last week I took a COVID-19 test. This came back positive. I was in NSW, so filled in their web reporting form (which was remarkably short and easy). I was expecting to be enmeshed in a complex bureaucratic process. But it was not that bad.

In response to the form, I got a text message telling me to self isolate for 7 days, or longer if not well. It also said "To help you get the care you need, please complete this questionnaire". However, by then I felt fine, did not think I needed care, and so did not fill the form in.

Some time later I got a call from "RPA Virtual Hospital". At fist I thought this was a scam, as most unsolicited calls are. But the caller said I had been referred to them by NSW Health. They seemed a little confused as to why they did not have me on file (no reason why they should). They asked about if I was vaccinated, which seemed odd, as they should have access to my vaccination, and medical records online. They also seemed surprised I felt so well. They asked if I needed groceries or medicines. I didn't, as I had been keeping two weeks supply on hand since the start of the pandemic for just such a situation+. They asked about existing health conditions and decided to send me a Oxiometer. Most usefully they explained that I did not need a COVID-19 test to leave isolation after a week (if well). 

The Oxiometer was delivered the next day and is a clever little gadget*. This  indicated my oxygen level was fine, and it was a relief to leave isolation. 

The PRA Virtual is an excellent service. It could be improved by having an easier to find web page. This would help reassure patients it is not a scam. Some sort of app where you enter your pulse & Oxygen reading regularly might be useful, not so much for the readings, but to reassure the hospital the patient is coping. NSW Health might want to amend their instructions to say the questionnaire should be filled in even if you are feeling well.

Also it might be good if the government system, or the hospital, was to contact the patient at the end of the isolation period, to confirm it was now okay to leave isolation. 

+ I am one of the most prepared people for using tech in a pandemic. In 2006 I gave a series of talks around the world on using the web in a pandemic, & in 2009 I set my ANU students the task to design a pandemic web site for the Australian public
* I ended up ordering an Oximeter online for $15, without a Bluetooth interface. This unit has an Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) registration number. There many units offered online claiming Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) "approval", but only 227 listed. Most are around $30.

No comments: