By Dr. Tom Schwieterman, MD
Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer
The 2020 COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has captured the attention of the world. While COVID-19 is not the deadliest novel viral pathogen we have seen in recent history, it is an illness that sparks heightened vigilance and containment measures. Why?
COVID-19 is unusually contagious, and viral shedding from COVID-19 infected individuals appears to be occurring even before symptoms manifest. This makes COVID-19 unique compared to Swine Flu, SARS, MERS and other contagious pathogens. There have been unprecedented measures being taken by corporations, state governments and airlines to contain the spread of this virulent new threat.
With this in mind, healthcare organizations of all sizes need to ask themselves a vitally important question: What are we doing to protect our patients and staff against infectious pathogens of all types? Clearly with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new viral agents, health systems need to set examples of how best to prevent spread within their own institutions.
A real-time locating system, such as the Midmark RTLS, offers a powerful opportunity to do what would otherwise be nearly impossible. When staff and/or patients wear RTLS badges, health systems can almost instantly identify any and all individuals that
have come into contact with a person or location known (or thought to be) a risk for pathogen exposure. RTLS can identify, down to the individual level and at the granularity of numbers of seconds that person was exposed, who needs to take additional
measures to thwart further disease exposure and spread. This offers a powerful, invaluable safeguard if a contagion enters your facility.
“Degree of Exposure” and “Location Activity” Reports
When patients and staff wear RTLS badges (or a piece of equipment is tagged with an asset tag), Midmark RTLS records their movement throughout the clinic, hospital or department.* If a person with an infectious contagion is identified, staff can reference the Degree of Exposure report to understand:
If staff wear badges, but patients don’t, RTLS reporting still provides invaluable data through another report called the “Location Activity” Report, which answers the question: “Which staff or equipment may have been exposed to a contagious patient?”
Answering these questions with accurate, trustworthy data is critical in preventing the further spread of a contagion. In fact, the first US case of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), a viral respiratory illness with a 50 percent death rate, was contained using Midmark RTLS.
How Community Hospital stopped MERS in its tracks
The first MERS patient in the US entered Community Hospital in a highly publicized event in 2014 that involved the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and a potential hospital shutdown.
In mere minutes, thanks in large part to the location data provided by Midmark RTLS, the hospital had answers that otherwise would have been almost impossible to retrospectively capture. They were not only able to know who was exposed, but also how long they were exposed (and who was not exposed) to MERS. The CDC was impressed by the breadth of insights and accuracy that the RTLS data provided.
Focus on Patient + Staff Safety with RTLS
Infection control professionals have so many things to worry about when it comes to novel pathogens entering their facilities. With RTLS data at their fingertips when these situations occur, these leaders can quickly get to work locating, notifying, testing and treating those who encountered a contagion to minimize the risk of spreading infections.
*Please note that all reports only show data from areas of the facility where Midmark RTLS Infrared Sensors are installed and for people who are properly wearing functioning badges.