How to Protect Hospital Staff from COVID-19 with Safety Technology

As Coronavirus cases reach record highs across almost all states, hospitals are once again experiencing overwhelming capacities and critical shortages on the front lines.  While the first response to the rapid spread earlier this year forced healthcare organizations to quickly adapt, COVID-19 demonstrated the need for more stable and reliable safety infrastructure across the industry.  But faced with constrained resources and little time to spare between threatening surges, COVID-19 has exposed the differences between well-planned emergency response strategies and those lacking to withstand the challenges of a global pandemic.  

In both cases, the alarming reality of hospital safety has pushed leaders to closely evaluate areas where transformation is needed.  The key is to not only focus on reducing the current risks of COVID-19, but also improve on fundamental changes for the future of healthcare. 

COVID-19 has caused a shift in executive priorities

Without a clear timeline for a vaccine, no one can predict an end date for COVID-19.  Until then, hospitals must remain vigilant and on high-alert.  Leading healthcare organizations are focused on finding reliable, cost-effective solutions that improve quality, protect healthcare workers and patients from harm, while also encouraging patients that it’s safe to return for care to boost critical revenue.  Many hospital leaders agree that in order to address these urgent priorities, budgets and purchasing plans have shifted.  According to a recent KLAS survey, Vendor Performance in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis, 81% of interviewed provider organization leaders reported significant budget cuts in the year ahead, but also recognize the need to invest in technology solutions to be better prepared for the future of healthcare.  Thus, 74% of respondents reported that they will invest in more technology moving forward in order to fuel recovery and growth as they come out of the crisis.    

We are in fact seeing many organizations reorganize budgets, looking for ways to quickly fund investments in technology and innovation.  However, rather than investing in several disparate technologies that boost overall costs to an organization, cost-effective platform solutions present a more viable option.  The industry was already experiencing the expiring effects of fatigued point solutions, further accelerating interest in platform solutions that reduce total cost of ownership and the need to adopt and integrate multiple technologies.

Edward-Elmhurst Health Protects Staff and Patients Using SwipeSense Safety Technology 

In the early stages of the pandemic, Edward-Elmhurst Health, like many health systems, was under pressure to act fast in response to the crisis while remaining focused on providing safe, quality care.  Also similar to many organizations across the country, staff were becoming exposed to COVID-19, and manual, pen and paper, labor-intensive exposure tracking processes were untenable with the size of such a dangerous outbreak.  This further caused serious concerns about staff safety and having enough employees to treat higher than normal patient volumes. 

The team at Edward-Elmhurst recognized the urgent need for an immediate solution to mitigate the spread amongst staff and patients being treated at their hospitals. 

We were racing against the clock to save lives and needed a reliable, data-driven approach to protect frontline staff.” - Raj Iyer, Chief Data Analytics Officer, Edward-Elmhurst Health. 

Iyer reached out to Edward-Elmhurst Health’s partners at SwipeSense with the idea that the employee and room-level movement data already being captured through SwipeSense Caregiver Badges to monitor electronic hand hygiene compliance, could also be used to conduct automated contact tracing.  SwipeSense worked fast to provide data that allowed Edward-Elmhurst Health to determine staff that came into contact with an infected person, reducing the time to identify and notify staff of potential exposure.  

As a result of this collaborative effort to leverage technology for automated contact tracing, Edward-Elmhurst Health was able to : 

  • Generate initial exposure lists within minutes for employee positive cases.  

  • Quantify risk based on the number of times an employee entered a room, and the duration in minutes at which they were exposed

  • Accelerate exposure response allowing for immediate isolation and monitoring 

Discover how automated contact tracing allowed Edward-Elmhurst to identify more than 2,400 employees of potential risk in just a few months, ultimately reducing the total number of exposed employees.

Protecting Healthcare Workers From the Risk of COVID-19

The challenge in protecting healthcare workers has only escalated throughout the pandemic.  A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 6% of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19 work in healthcare and most in that group were nurses.  Even more devastating, the report states that more than 4% of healthcare workers who were hospitalized died. 

The real-time data provided through SwipeSense technology has further gained significance with the CDC’s expanded definition of what it means to be in close contact with an infected individual.  Individuals who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 or more minutes over a 24 hour period, are considered at risk. This news comes as hospitals see an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, making it even more critical to prevent transmission to both patients and staff by wearing a mask or other appropriate PPE, performing hand hygiene, and having a reliable contact tracing method in place. 

Regardless of the pandemic’s timeline, the events of 2020 have left a significant mark on the ways in which hospitals operate today, and likely how they will function in the future. 

How has your organization’s safety preparedness plan shifted as a result of COVID-19?  Connect with our team at SwipeSense to learn about our new safety application, Automated Contact Tracing, and how hospitals are already leveraging the technology to track and reduce exposure events.  

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