Hospital goes digital to stop spread of Covid-19 from patients to health-care workers
By digitising data for patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Cape Town hospital, researchers believe health-care infections might be regulated.
To do this, the ICU is doing away with their paper-based system of taking patients' data at their bedsides and instead relies on cameras and computer tablets to monitor patients’ vitals.
“Built on the strong partnership between Stellenbosch University and Western Cape Provincial Health, the project will contribute to improved care for patients with Covid-19, as well as a safer working environment for health-care workers in the ICU environment. This is an investment whose benefits will continue to be felt long after the current pandemic has abated,” said Professor Jimmy Volmink, Dean at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.
Tygerberg Hospital was the first designated Covid-19 hospital in the Western Cape and more than 200 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. Tygerberg also services the ICU needs of district and regional hospitals.
As ICU care requires continuous updates on patients’ vital signs, this also poses a risk for health-care workers. The hospital recently acquired two "infection-resistant robot nurses" called Quintin and Salma, which are already assisting intensivists with ward rounds in the Covid-19 ICU. The digitisation project will be an expansion of Quintin and Salma’s work and will further decrease the risk of contamination and infection, while also increasing capacity, reach and effectiveness of medical and nursing staff.
“The safety of hospital staff is our top priority. In reducing paperwork, nursing capacity will be freed up to focus on providing high-quality nursing care to patients,” said Dr Brian Allwood, an intensivist working in Tygerberg Hospital’s Covid-19 critical care wards.
“It is estimated that the ICU could improve staff infection control by up to 50%,” Allwood said.
The new digital system will capture patient and specialist data through the use of cameras, tablet computers, and voice and electronic notes on to a central database that will enable specialists to monitor patients remotely. In future, the system might be expanded for monitoring of patients in external or rural hospitals without staff expertise or capacity, and could continue after the pandemic.
Another positive spin-off of installing cameras at Covid-19 ICU beds is that it could potentially facilitate video calls between patients and their families.
“Patients in Covid-19 wards are completely isolated from their loved ones. Video calls with friends and family once patients are stable will offer a big boost to their well-being and morale,” Allwood said.