Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Telemedicine tools used to combat Ebola could help fight COVID-19

14 May 2020

Researchers from UVA Health have found that telehealth tools created in 2014 to battle Ebola have the potential to help fight COVID-19. These tools would allow doctors to provide personal and high-quality care while conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) and reducing the risk of infection.

UVA Health's Karen Rheuban, MD, and Andrew Southerland, MD, demonstrate telehealth in an image taken before the pandemic. Source: Jackson Smith/UVA HealthUVA Health's Karen Rheuban, MD, and Andrew Southerland, MD, demonstrate telehealth in an image taken before the pandemic. Source: Jackson Smith/UVA Health

The team led by UVA’s Karen S. Rheuban from the Center for Telehealth, created the Isolation Communication Management System (iSOCOMS), which provided treatment, guidance and supervision for UVA’s Special Pathogens Unit. The team began using the technology for Ebola treatment in 2014.

The iSOCOMS includes visual and audio technologies that allow healthcare providers to monitor and communicate with patients in isolation and allows additional care providers into the hospital room. With this technology, med students can be safely trained in an infectious environment and family or spiritual leaders can communicate with an infected patient. Care providers can connect more with their patients without cumbersome layers of PPE in between them.

The iSOCOMS provided a clear benefit to patient care and healthcare provider safety when ruling out potential Ebola cases. The team believes that the system could work in the same way for COVID-19.

Researchers caution that hospitals need to be mindful of patient privacy when using internal telemedicine setups. But they urge healthcare professionals to consider the potential of the technology at their fingertips. The low cost of telemedicine could significantly improve COVID-19 care.

A paper on this research was published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.



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