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Health workers, heroes and protagonists on World Health Day

Social responsibility

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07 April 2020

Surely, when World Health Organization chose April 7 to commemorate World Health Day and to raise awareness of worldwide fatal diseases, no one imagined that in the 21st century a virus will spread so rapidly that it would affect more than a third of the world’s population in a just a few weeks. Besides choosing this date for this occasion, WHO aimed at choosing a topic every year on the basis of the needs and suggestions made by the member states.

This year 2020, building consensus was quite simple: “to support nurses and midwives providing healthcare services.” However, the health crisis generated by COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant number of healthcare professionals being infected, so today the protagonists are midwives, nurses and auxiliary nurses. Today we want to celebrate their work and remind global leaders of the key role they perform in healthcare systems around the globe.

All the countries in the world have shown solidarity with these professionals, who struggle day and night to reduce contagion, to ensure that the growth rate of the curve of infections changes direction and begins to fall, and who, moreover, are particularly exposed to contagion, carry out their work while the demand for constant care increases and face the problems arising from the lack of personnel and resources on a daily basis. This is in addition to the emotional exhaustion and the psychological consequences of seeing many human beings die and become sick every day.

Shortages of health-care professionals and the collapse of hospitals have caused extreme situations such as students or retired professionals being called back into service in new makeshift hospitals in almost in all corners of the globe, where shortages of human resources meet lack of material resources: from facilities and professionals to drugs and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Once again, technology has become a fundamental tool to find alternative solutions. On the one hand, digitalization of healthcare processes – such as self-diagnosis through websites or mobile applications – have become highly important, as they enable a massive screening of patients to avoid unnecessary use of health care centers and emergency units. On the other hand, simultaneously, remote healthcare assistance has enabled patients to keep in touch with healthcare professionals and monitor their condition, namely in cases of COVID-19 infected persons with mild to moderate symptoms, and to apply for drug electronic prescription. Remote healthcare assistance has exponentially reduced physical contact between clinicians and patients and between infected patients themselves, slowing the spread of the virus. Likewise, it has also enabled to increase the availability of hospital beds.

In those more developed countries where Electronic Health Records (EHR) are implemented in all health centers, care for patients has been speeded up since it has made it possible to access relevant information on patients in just a few seconds: medical history, allergies, pharmaco-therapeutic history, etc. This information is available at a click and a glance to find out how to deal with each case without waiting for a physical history to arrive.

Intensive Care Units

Patients infected with COVID-19 are isolated and, as far as possible, the nursing staff must avoid without putting at risk the recovery of the patient, the number of entrances to their rooms. Therefore, the fact that monitors, ventilators and infusion pumps record their data directly into the patient's EHR prevents nurses from constantly entering patient rooms to check and register information. Manually transcribing the data obtained in each physical visit is no longer necessary and healthcare professionals can devote this extra time to other important tasks in a context such as the current one. In short, the integration of continuous monitoring equipment with the electronic medical records has been and is being an essential ally in facing this crisis.

Patients in ICUs infected with COVID-19 are unstable and need constant drug titration. This type of combined systems has enabled to create monitoring centers where several patients can be controlled at the same time and various alerts can be managed through technological devices.

Other technological applications that have contributed to public health 

All business sectors have adopted appropriate measures to help stop the spread of the pandemic. The obligation and responsibility of each company has been to implement all the systems at its reach, as well as all the necessary measures to ensure the health of its workers. Therefore, telework has been imposed in the sectors where it has been feasible, and in a large percentage of companies as a quick and more effective response; in cases of organizations that did not have such systems already in place, they have begun their development and deployment, and those companies that already had telework as a standard practice have extended it to all their staff. Although telework is not applied in the healthcare sector, its adoption in other professional sectors has meant that millions of people have not had to travel to their workplaces, with the subsequent and significant reduction in infections, towards the common objective of avoiding the collapse of the healthcare system.

Monitoring geolocation data provided by mobile devices has also enabled countries and administrations to understand population movements and calculate the healthcare capacities of each region and country.

The next step and the common desire of all is to stop the pandemic and return to normality. Perhaps next April 7 2021 we will be celebrating the existence of the vaccine and we can all forget, as far as possible, the terrible crisis that the coronavirus has meant for the entire world in 2020.
 

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