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Posted By Lauren Brawley On March 17, 2020

COVID-19, Public Health, and Your EHR

The discussion of COVID-19 comes as no surprise. Coronavirus is currently the main headline for every news station worldwide and has over 3 billion results on Google. As an Electronic Health Record focused on Public Health, we understand the importance of addressing the arising issue of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Public Health professionals are on the front lines of combating the growing pandemic. Local public health agencies are tasked with identifying cases of COVID-19 and work with government officials on how to advise the community on precautionary measures. 

COVID-19 Risk Assessment in Patagonia Health

Our team is in the final stages of developing a COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Public Health Management Decision Making Tool. Similar to the screening tool we developed for the Ebola outbreak, the COVID-19 Risk Assessment tool will:

  • Follow the CDC guidelines exactly.
  • Automatically open during the patient check-in process.
  • Automatically categorize the patient risk level and save the results directly to the patient record. 

This assessment tool will be turned on at no charge to all of our customers. (Users can disable it if they don’t need it.) For more information on the assessment or how we can help your agency during this outbreak, please contact us today.

Why Protective Measures are Necessary

During the course of this virus, many health agencies have been stretched thin. With a pandemic being declared by the World Health Organization on March 12th, precautionary actions are increasingly important. Preparedness is the best prevention method. As shown in the graph from USA Today, the curve can be flattened to avoid overloading the healthcare system, including public health infrastructure. Historically, restrictions on social distancing have proven to slow the spread of viruses and decrease mortality rates.

The Washington Post Graphic from The Washington Post to show the importance of flattening the curverecently released a helpful graphic on how the curve was flattened during the 1918 flu outbreak. Philadelphia didn’t cancel a large city parade in 1918 eleven days after the first flu cases were identified. This decision led to a historical spike in the flu’s spread and mortality outcomes. In comparison, St. Louis acted on social distancing measures two days after the first confirmed cases. This decision led to a slower spread of the virus and better outcomes overall. This moment in public health history is one we can learn from moving forward. While social distancing restrictions are disruptive and unpopular, they are critical in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Who is High Risk?

Continually, COVID-19 reports follow a theme. High-risk individuals need to take further precautions to protect their health. These individuals include:

  • Individuals over the age of 65
  • Individuals with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease

If you are in these populations, there is a chance that you will become more seriously ill from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that high-risk individuals stock up on their medical supplies and avoid close contact, especially in crowded public areas. Limit your exposure to large crowds as much as possible and avoid any cruise and non-essential air travel. These are especially dangerous areas because of limited ventilation and high-exposure to people who may be sick. Health authorities have recognized that these measures may not be the popular opinion of the public. While people may not be happy about these restrictions, they are extremely important to slow the spread of the virus as much as possible.

Learn more about people at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 on the CDC website. 

Additionally, healthcare authorities advise the public to not panic but be cautious. Even if you are not identified as high-risk, it is important to take the virus seriously to prevent further spread. To protect yourself and those around you, here’s what you can do: 

  1. Wash your hands. Proper handwashing includes using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have soap and water available, make sure to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Stay home if you are sick. Since the disease spreads easily from person-to-person, it’s critical to avoid close contact with individuals who do not feel well.
  3. Cover your cough. Cover your cough with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away. Wash your hands immediately after you cough.
  4. Clean and use disinfectants. Areas that are frequently touched are especially important to clean and disinfect. 
  5. Most importantly, follow the guidance of your local health authorities as conditions in each area rapidly change.

Guidelines to Follow

Earlier this week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force published guidelines for schools, homes, workplaces, and commercial establishments. Specifics guidelines vary for each location, but all address these recommendations to stay safe: 

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Consider restricting travel when necessary
  • Quarantine yourself when sick

You can find the guidelines more in-depth here.

Resources

CDC Steps to Prevent Illness

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About Lauren Brawley

Lauren Brawley is a Marketing Specialist at Patagonia Health, a cloud-based EHR designed specifically for behavioral and public healthcare. Lauren integrates her strong communications skills with industry research to keep partners up to date on important Behavioral and Public Health resources and news.