As COVID-19 spreads, the future of medicine is quickly becoming the medicine of today
Monday, March 23, 2020
As the world continues its collective efforts at waging war against the rapidly spreading coronavirus, a handful of health tech devices and telemedicine tools are in the spotlight like never before. Many are being fast-tracked and called up to the front lines to be the tip of the spear in the coronavirus pandemic.
With elevated body temperature being among the first symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by a coronavirus, some medical practices, retail businesses and even restaurants are checking people’s temperature at the door with infrared thermometers.
Body temperature can be measured in a number of ways. Traditionally, body temperature has been measured using contact thermometers that are placed on the forehead or in the mouth, ear, armpit or rectum. Infrared (non-contact) thermometers allow a person’s temperature to be taken with no actual physical contact. This means the disinfection process between patients for the thermometers is minimal or unnecessary, allowing for easier and faster use when screening large numbers of people in settings like airports or border crossings.
But experts say, not so fast. “A thermometer, if calibrated and used appropriately, can detect a fever. Great. We are all happy about that,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. “But is it an effective method for screening people for COVID-19 infection? The answer is no.”
The biggest problem cited is that temperature screening can miss cases, unwittingly sending sick people through. It can also deliver false positives, potentially sending healthy people into spaces where others are seriously ill.
MedWand for Remote Examination
Tucked away inside a gadget only slightly bigger than a computer mouse, 10 medical-grade diagnostic tools and a powerful high-definition camera allow doctors to examine patients virtually, no matter where they are in the world. MedWand can listen to your heart and lungs, measure respiratory rates and blood oxygen levels. It can take your temperature, scan your skin and even peer at your tonsils. All of this information is then sent in real time to your healthcare provider who interacts through a secure video portal on their computer.
Originally forecast to receive FDA approval in late summer, the device is now under consideration for emergency use authorization by the FDA. "MedWand has specific diagnostic instruments to remotely examine coronavirus patients, so we filed for authorization that would allow us to get these devices into the right hands, right away,” said Dr. Samir Qamar, the family practice physician and health tech CEO who introduced MedTech at CES in January.
Simple Practices Just May Save the Day
Disinfecting robots and helmets embedded with AI that can detect elevated body temperature from 16 feet away? We are living in amazing times. But, most experts agree it’s the old-fashioned advice your mom has been giving you for years that can make the biggest difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19; wash your hands well and often, avoid touching your face and if you’re sick, stay home.
As the pandemic unfolds around us, hospitals and clinics are urging people with less severe symptoms and non-life-threatening conditions to stay home, in order to limit exposure and lessen the strain on the healthcare system overall.
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