With the coronavirus, now named COVID-19, pandemic top of mind, I want to use this blog as a chance to take a step back, put things into perspective, and consider the tools at our disposal for mitigating the risk of spreading communicable viruses.
First things first: COVID-19 is of serious concern. It’s a novel virus that has taken many lives and threatens to take more. And while I think it’s important to acknowledge this fact, we should also be candid about the reality that, at this point, the CDC estimates that in the United States the 2019-2020 flu season has led to between 10,000 and 25,000 flu deaths. In the US, the flu—more so than COVID-19—presents a very real threat to our most vulnerable populations every year. Virtual care, however, offers us capabilities that help us limit both exposure and transmission; if necessary, it could do the same for COVID-19. Let me tell you about four of these capabilities.
If care is a journey, triage is a fork in the road. One of the most powerful tools virtual care can offer us is the ability to automate triage. For Zipnosis, that means our platform guides patients to the most appropriate level of care based on their present symptoms—be that an asynchronous encounter, a video visit, or in-person care. Too often, people that can be safely treated at home crowd waiting rooms, exposing people to their infections or getting exposed to viruses and bacteria themselves. By empowering health systems with smart triage, we offer one of the first lines of defense against communicable disease, limiting transmission and guiding patients to the most appropriate level of care.
Shortly after the CDC released their guidance for assessing risk of exposure to COVID-19, we updated our async interviews with questions critical in assessing possible exposure. That is to say, with a relatively small amount of work by our clinical team and a single click of the “update” button, our health system partners around the country were ready to help screen for COVID-19. It’s easy to take for granted the impact that asking even a single extra question can have, but this seemingly small step may make all the difference in assessing risk of exposure. This is one of the many advantages to having an integrated virtual care platform.
In the face of a potential public health crisis, data is more than just a term we throw around to pique interest in our technology. Having up-to-date real-time data is a powerful tool in tracking patterns and the potential spread of communicable disease. By virtue of our partnership with health systems, Zipnosis has the ability to track the incidence of disease, and in so aid health systems in tracking a potential epidemic.
Public Health Communication
In 2017, Minnesota was the site of a measles outbreak. In response to the outbreak, Zipnosis worked with several of our health system partners to include important information throughout our platform’s patient experience that provided patients education key to disease prevention, identification of symptoms and ultimately guidance in seeking the appropriate treatment. This kind of patient education is also used every year to create greater public awareness throughout the flu season. A better-informed public helps greatly in times of public health crises, and virtual care offers us the ability to effectively inform.
My Closing Thoughts
COVID-19 may itself be novel, but the capabilities we have at our disposal to help combat its spread are the same we use for influenza every year. This is not to say that we should underestimate COVID-19, nor that virtual care offers us all the answers in stopping or even preventing an epidemic. But, the modern tools Zipnosis deploys every day have the ability to actually make a difference, to help people, keep them healthy, and improve the human experience.