Supporting Emergency Service Providers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 poses the biggest risk to healthcare providers based on the sheer volume of potential exposures. Social distancing as a measure of control works for other Americans however, healthcare workers cannot implement the same precautions and must rely on personal protective equipment. Even those who utilize PPE appropriately are still at risk of contracting the virus.

Large amounts of healthcare workers and emergency medical services personnel have faced quarantine from exposure. These quarantines can severely limit the capacity of an organization to respond to normal operational needs let alone the increased demand created by the COVID-19 outbreak.

At the beginning of the outbreak, 25 firefighters were quarantined in Washington state after exposure to the first cluster of COVID-19 patients in the United States. As I write this article a few short weeks later, over 40 FDNY members have been quarantined as a result of a single COVID-19 exposure.

While we may look back and say that this was alarmist, the numbers support these actions. Many cases will undoubtedly be mild, there are still a small number of patients that despite being otherwise young and healthy, will become gravely ill or worse.

Stopping the spread of the virus and limiting exposure to essential healthcare employees has become paramount for every leader in fire and EMS.

Despite changes in dispatch procedures and personal protective equipment, exposure is still possible, and this is where the support of nurse triage becomes integral. 911 call takers need support from healthcare professionals by way of registered nurses to assist in the critical decision making that is required for determining the risk of COVID-19.

Failing to identify COVID-19 patients can have a huge impact on the operational environment of EMS services. Any amount of quarantine of EMS providers will have a devastating impact on the ability to provide support for continuing emergencies for all populations.

Any transport of EMS patients poses a high risk of transmission to EMS providers that must ride in the ambulance with the patient in close contact for extended periods of time (greater than 1-2 minutes). Once these patients get to the hospital they are vectors for exposing other healthcare workers and patients who have presented to the ED for non-contagious concerns.

The best way to implement social distancing in healthcare is to use telehealth and teletriage to reduce the number of patients that come to the emergency department in times of crisis. During this outbreak, the goal has been to flatten the curve of disease pandemic by reducing the spread through social distancing. While some telehealth options exist to help reduce patient contacts, only TruTriage provides 911 nurse triage as a teletriage option to help increase social distancing to reduce exposure to EMS and other healthcare providers.

During the current pandemic, TruTriage nurses have seen patients present to the ED via EMS with minor complaints that could have safely been triaged to homecare with evidence-based guidelines. These patients represent as high of a risk of exposure to EMS crews as possible. Transporting patients in small ambulance interiors for extended periods of time makes every one of these transports high risk even with flawless PPE use.

TruTriage exists to support your 911 system and responders by simply avoiding these exposures where the risk to providers outweighs the benefit to your patients. Founded by EMS veterans and emergency department nurses and doctors, we have developed a safe solution that is a valuable tool in the pandemic preparedness toolbox.

To learn more about how TruTriage can support your community please review the below information.

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