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Healthwatch 16: High-tech treatment for COVID-19

Geisinger is using new ways to connect with their coronavirus-positive patients.

We have been hearing from health officials for months now that unless you have serious complications, it's best to try to battle COVID-19 at home, but that can be scary for patients who don't know what to expect.

Geisinger is using new ways to connect with their coronavirus-positive patients.

Geisinger's MyChart is nothing new. The health system has been using the electronic health record since 1996.

But a recently launched smartphone app is helping Geisinger officials keep closer tabs on coronavirus patients.

"Starting at the end of March, we started a home monitoring program. We thought it was an important enough diagnosis that we wanted to manage every patient with positive tests the same way," said Dr. Ben Hohmuth, chief medical informatics officer for Geisinger.

He notes that coronavirus is an illness that requires close monitoring without close contact. One way to do that is through the new app.

"Rather than waiting for that phone call, what we've enabled is for you to enter your symptoms, your oxygen level, and temperature a couple times a day right to your phone. That's routed to a group of nurses," he explained.

Another way if officials think your case requires it, would be a special kit delivered to your home. It includes a thermometer, a pulse oximeter to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood, and Tylenol.

"What we've found was we had patients with COVID going to the store to try to get it. We needed to get them safe at home! So we partnered with CareWorks and had it delivered to their home," said  Joann Sciandra, vice president of care coordination and integration for Geisinger Health Plan.

Sciandra explains that two separate groups of nurses are in charge of managing the information that patients provide via the app, or by phone or messaging. That way, medical professionals can best treat people in their homes, but if necessary, intervene and get them to emergency care.

There's a second, more advanced kit that's Bluetooth enabled, which allows those nurses to see information in real time.

These are all ways to try to alleviate the anxiety of treating COVID-19, so people know they're being cared for even when they're isolated at home.

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