by Dr. Carl Luckhoff, Acting Director of Emergency at Alfred Health
Vaccines have provided hope for a return to normalcy, however, in a post-COVID-19 world, the apparatus of infectious disease prevention must be retained.
Although COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death, the emergence of different strains will continue to pose challenges.
The effectiveness of vaccines towards future strains is unknown, and with international travel re-opening, more challenges will likely arise.
Screening measures are and will remain imperative.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now commonplace to be screened upon entry to a variety of physical environments, workplaces being increasingly included in this list.
Rudimentary tools rely on users disclosing their symptoms alongside any travel to exposure zones and providing details to aid contact-tracing efforts.
Measures that rely on health data often focus on temperature screening alone, without considering parameters such as oxygen saturation and heart rate.
If we want to embed screening measures in our lives - and we must - we need to make them better at detecting and preventing disease, and most importantly, more user-friendly.
Clinicians need to be utilizing the advances in technology to help provide the right care to the right people at the right time.
In a world where we want to identify any potential respiratory illness early, an additional layer of safety is paramount.
This is especially true for workplaces.
Respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19 and influenza are transmitted through aerosol spread - meaning these infections can spread through the air - even where contact is only fleeting, and sometimes, at a distance.
Influenza alone – not considering other respiratory illnesses that cause common cold and flu symptoms - costs the Australian business community approximately $7 billion in lost productivity per year.
As of July 21st, one in ten COVID-19 cases in Sydney’s June 2021 outbreak had been transmitted at work, with some asymptomatic workers returning positive tests.
Early identification of infectious disease is not only good for employees but also reliably assures employers that their work environments are safe.
Reducing the risk of one person means they don’t transmit disease to those around them.
Screening tools offer more than just a measure of safety.
Use in workplaces provides a culture of safety and a feeling of community within the workplace – after all, each person’s safety is reliant upon each employee's voluntary use of the screening tool every day.
It indirectly creates trust amongst teams and helps people focus on the task at hand, rather than worrying about becoming ill at work.
Preventing the spread of communicable diseases through comprehensive screening tools will also save businesses lost productivity costs and create a culture around safe environments for staff.
There is little value, however, in creating the best and most advanced system of screening if you are not also focusing on user perception and satisfaction.
High user satisfaction increases the likelihood of screening measure uptake, thus increasing its effectiveness.
I have always been interested in solutions that place people and patients at the center. Health screening tools need to do the same.
One such technology, the Vital Monitoring System (VMS) achieves this by using both medical indicators and self-reporting tools to produce an easy and holistic medical screening.
Quantitative and qualitative clinical trial data, using a similar platform for people who are unwell, show a user satisfaction rate of 90%.
Ensuring workers are comfortable using health screening measures is critical for the use and uptake of the tool. Accessibility and privacy are two aspects that need to be included in carefully considered to ensure workplace uptake and user comfortability while using health screening tools.
For example, the VMS interface is user-friendly for both individuals and workplaces and provides clear recommendations for the health measurement tools – Pulse Oximetry Device and Digital Oral Thermometer – needed for a thorough screening.
In terms of privacy, users should have the security of knowing their personal health data is being kept securely and remains confidential.
Health screening tools that use vital signs and personal health data must be compliant with health privacy regulations of the highest standard.
Health screening devices must also be easy for workplaces to use. Like VMS, health screening tools must be easily integrated with existing workforce management tools, able to screen 100% of a workplace daily, and be tailorable to suit the needs of any given workplace.
Providing a clinical “back-end” to a workplace’s existing non-clinical screening tools adds an important layer of protection even with vaccination.
High vaccine uptake is a crucial step in successfully handling the strains of COVID19 we have thus far. We cannot, however, be complacent with vaccines.
Vaccines are not a silver bullet, they must be augmented with other disease prevention measures to ensure we’re safe from the next strain, the next virus, the next pandemic.
Clinical screening tools must be a longstanding solution in controlling COVID19 and other communicable diseases.
Find out more about VMS here.
About the Author
Dr. Carl Luckhoff has over 13 years of experience in the healthcare industry and is part of the team that created the initial VMS solution. He is an Emergency Physician, Acting Director of Emergency at Alfred Health, and is currently completing the Global Executive MBA program with Monash Business School.
The Vital Monitoring System (VMS) is a clinically proven risk management technology originally created by world-leading doctors and technology research professionals at Alfred Health and Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2).
VMS uses algorithms to identify and predict respiratory risk indicators from a user’s vital signs and responses to health-related questions. VMS collects this information voluntarily and is HIPPA compliant.
VMS is exclusively available through and solely commercialized by re-open.com, a platform hosting a suite of accessible, evidence-based solutions helping workplaces and physical environments re-open safely and compliantly.