Mediclinic’s cutting-edge COVID-19 screening technology is evolving

Posted on 15 June 2020

New machine learning based tools offer instant COVID-19 screening for patients and staff.

Ever since the World Health Organization first reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in China, in late December 2019, teams of specialists within Mediclinic Southern Africa have been using their combined knowledge and experience to bring a team-led approach to the fight against COVID-19.

While hospitals have been busy sourcing appropriate personal protective measures and preparing dedicated units and staff for an influx of patients, Mediclinic’s teams of clinical governance specialists and information and communications technology (ICT) experts have been coordinating their efforts to offer additional solutions.

Since March 2020, South Africans have been able to use Mediclinic’s cutting-edge virtual screening tool to regularly and reliably assess their risk of contracting and spreading the disease. This portal converts sets of clinical and epidemiological criteria into a user-friendly online interface that provides an in-depth evaluation and sets in motion an appropriate response. Patients at risk are escalated to an on-call team of registered nurses and ER24 paramedics, who are able to provide locality-specific testing information and guidance.

Now, this portal is expanding even further.

‘The immediate focus was to assist with the volume of people who were presenting at Mediclinic Emergency Centres by giving them an option to assess themselves virtually,’ says Raymond Plotz, ICT Executive: Mediclinic Southern Africa. ‘We had a lot of interest in this initial assessment from many quarters and we realised we had an opportunity to assist further with online systems.’

Those systems make the same clinical backbone accessible on a daily basis to members of staff and public patients as they arrive at Mediclinic hospitals and have become a critical part of the group’s streamlined access control measures.

‘Once someone is captured into the tool and is flagged as being monitored, the system sends out an invitation to connect online,’ says Plotz. ‘This gives us an automated way to engage with staff members, via their smartphones, to complete an assessment each day and allows us to enhance the engagement platform by adding or removing questions easily.’

This real-time messaging platform effectively authorises patients and staff for entry based on their assessment results. Plotz says the recent addition of a QR code to the system speeds up the access screening process further, and that more innovations are unfolding.

‘We’re currently investigating linking the system to a thermal camera, allowing us to automatically capture the body temperature of anyone presenting at the hospital. Of course, these cameras will first need to prove their viability before a decision is made – but these are all initiatives developed with speed to market in mind.’

Mediclinic’s ICT team is positioning to be a catalyst for digital change, says Plotz. ‘Our role is to introduce new digital ideas and changes to areas of the business that are occupied with the business of clinical care.’

Published in Innovation