Detecting the early signs of deterioration in a community population with confirmed or suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) remains a significant challenge for health and social care providers.
It is well understood that the commonest symptoms of COVID-19 are a continuous cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath, however, symptoms may be absent in the early stage of disease with no warning signs. Coronavirus can affect the lungs and airways, resulting in a reduced blood oxygen saturation levels even without symptoms of breathlessness, often referred to as silent hypoxia. Some are at a greater risk than others of becoming unwell rapidly, therefore the ability to recognise early deterioration can literally be lifesaving.
Schemes such as virtual wards are playing an important role, these projects have reduced both the time spent in hospital and admission avoidance for those with COVID-19, allowing safe monitoring in the community setting . The Academic Health Science Networks and Patient Safety Collaboratives are making a significant contribution to the NHS Patient Safety Strategy by supporting the implementation of COVID oximetry @home ([email protected]) and the widespread use of pulse oximeters within our local health and care systems .
[email protected] supports healthcare providers to safely monitor oxygen saturation levels at home and assess the risk of deterioration, using validated deterioration models in those staying in their own home or living in a care facility. It is also useful for those who are further along in their COVID-19 journey, supporting safe discharge from hospital and providing reassurance for those with coronavirus when resuming normal activity.
These National digital health care drivers will allow us to monitor both oxygen desaturation and deterioration, which can be vital when assessing the need for acute hospital admission at the most appropriate time.
Author: Maria Parsonage, Respiratory Diseases Sub-committee Vice Chair
- Thorton J. The “virtual wards” supporting patients with COVID-19 in the community BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2119 (Published 05 June 2020)
- Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) standard operating procedure: COVID Oximetry @home (2020) https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/11/[email protected] (Published 12 November 2020)