New app will help New Brunswick doctors combat COVID-19
Spectrum app was expected to go live for Horizon doctors Friday, Vitalité doctors within weeks
Doctors across New Brunswick will soon have a new app to help them combat the COVID-19 outbreak, say experts.
The Spectrum app will provide clear guidelines on what tests to do, what infection control to carry out, what treatments to provide, and how to manage common complications such as lung problems, said Dr. Gordon Dow, the division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital.
"I think it's going to be significant," said Dow.
The app, which was expected to go live for doctors in the Horizon Health Network on Friday, will put best-practice information in doctors' hands at the bedside so they immediately know what actions to take, he said.
It will optimize treatment for patients with COVID-19 while protecting health-care workers and other patients from the viral infection.
Doctors at the French-language Vitalité Health Network are expected to have access to the app within a couple of weeks, said Dan Landry, the health authority's infectious diseases pharmacist.
"Having a pandemic during the information age, it's crazy the amount of stuff that's being released and published multiple times a day," he said.
"So for clinicians to be expected to constantly be up to date with all the latest information is not reasonable and it really takes away from their time with patients.
"We want them to be able to find everything they need in one place."
1st possible case of community transmission
There were 45 cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick as of Friday, with 12 new confirmed cases. All were travel-related, except one that could be the province's first case of community transmission, chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell announced.
All of the previous confirmed cases were people who had travelled or could be traced back to someone who had travelled, she said.
As a result, testing is being expanded to include any health-care workers with symptoms who have not travelled, said Russell.
Some other health organizations across Canada have already started using the Spectrum app with great success to deal with COVID-19 patients, said Dow, citing as examples the University of Alberta Health Services as well as Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Spectrum app will also enable New Brunswick's English and French-language health networks to send push notifications to immediately alert their doctors about any major changes in recommended guidelines, said Landry, who works at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.
With COVID-19, recommendations are changing constantly with information coming in from around the world, he said.
Although the app information is automatically updated in the background, the push notification will ensure the doctors are aware of the most up-to-date information.
Horizon plans to use the app for other infectious diseases, said Dow.
For now, it's focusing on COVID-19 and other diseases that can mimic it, such as pneumonia.
Horizon is not co-ordinating with Vitalité on the app, said Dow, citing the need to move quickly.
Health officials are "always playing catch up" with COVID-19 because patients being diagnosed today were infected seven to 14 days prior. Trying to harmonize between the two regional health authorities would further slow them down, he said.
"The challenge is to get ahead of this."
Worked 72 hours straight on proposal
Horizon's infectious team had lobbied over the yeas to get an app like Spectrum for other uses, but the funding wasn't there, said Dow.
"We have a diminishing pot and many demands."
In addition, doctors in Horizon's hospitals already have access to another app that provides "excellent information."
"But you have to do a lot of reading to find out what to do sometimes," said Dow.
Given the urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak, having access to the Spectrum app became "imminently important."
It's going to facilitate effective state-of-the-art care.- Gordon Dow, infectious diseases specialist
There's a lot of information for doctors to "sift through." Some of it is "good scientific information," but there's a lot of misinformation as well, he said.
Moncton Hospital's Tim MacLaggan, who has a PhD in pharmacy, worked three days straight on a funding proposal.
Vice-president of medical, academic and research affairs Dr. Éduoard Hendriks and chief of staff Dr. John Dornan were "incredibly receptive" and had it approved within 24 hours, said Dow.
Although Vitalité is not co-ordinating with Horizon on the app, Landry expects the content to be about "95 per cent" similar.
Two app systems for the province cost the same as one, he said, so they decided to keep them separate so they could customize them.
He could not say how much it cost.
"It's going to facilitate effective state of the art care," said Dow.
"The whole idea with this application is to get down to the very basics of what's important. It's a very practical, quick tool."