SEOUL -- A new coronavirus pandemic forced an inevitable shift in medical paradigm, prompting hospitals to establish an operating system that actively utilizes information and communications technology, a medical research team in South Korea said, based on field experience in applying a remote patient management system for the treatment of COVID-19 patients isolated at a state-designated temporary healthcare center.
"COVID-19 is changing the existing medical paradigm," Bae Ye-seul, a professor at Seoul National University Hospital's office of hospital information, said in a statement. "In order to minimize the spread of infectious diseases and to treat patients safely, we need to establish an operating system that actively utilizes information technology."
In Mungyeong, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of Seoul, a training institute run by Seoul National University Hospital was turned into a temporary hospital to treat 118 clinically healthy patients with COVID-19 from March 5 to April 9. Minimal manpower was given to reduce contact and video calls were used to examine patients.
To prevent a queue in patients waiting for beds at isolation wards, patients have been divided into two groups. Critical patients were treated at negative pressure wards and those showing light symptoms or asymptomatic patients were sent to state-designated "living and treatment support centers (LTSCs)" that serve as temporary hospitals.
Government and private buildings equipped with lodging and dining facilities in remote areas have been used as temporary hospitals. South Korea used to run 16 LTSCs until April 30, but many were closed after health officials achieved a certain degree of success in their fight to contain the epidemic. Health officials described the temporary treatment system as the backbone of "K-quarantine."
"ICT-based tools and applications are increasingly important in health care, and we hope that our experience will provide insight into future technology-based infectious disease responses," Bae's team said in a research paper published on the website of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, a peer-reviewed open-access medical journal.
The hospital used electronic health record templates and an electronic prescription system. A mobile app enabled effective and accurate communication between health care providers and patients, and wearable vital sign monitoring devices facilitated the management of patients.
An information dashboard was created for medical personnel to view the vital signs and symptoms of patients. Patients used a mobile app to consult with their physician or nurse, answer questionnaires, and input self-measured vital signs. The results were uploaded to the hospital's information system in real time. Cloud-based image sharing was possible between medical institutions.
Blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and thermometers were placed in each room for patients to measure their blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature. In some rooms, a wearable continuous vital sign monitoring device was placed alongside conventional devices for continuous remote monitoring.
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