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Title: Technology-enabled virtual ward for COVID management of the elderly and immunocompromised in Singapore: a descriptive cohort
Authors: Ko, SQ
Kumar, SK
Jacob, J
Hooi, BMY 
Soo, M
Nashi, N 
Cruz, MTD
Wah, YA
Xin, WZ
Smitasin, N 
Lum, L 
Archuleta, S 
Keywords: COVID-19
Virtual Ward
Retrospective Studies
Emergency Service, Hospital
Hospitals, University
Issue Date: 1-Dec-2023
Citation: Ko, SQ, Kumar, SK, Jacob, J, Hooi, BMY, Soo, M, Nashi, N, Cruz, MTD, Wah, YA, Xin, WZ, Smitasin, N, Lum, L, Archuleta, S (2023-12-01). Technology-enabled virtual ward for COVID management of the elderly and immunocompromised in Singapore: a descriptive cohort. BMC Infectious Diseases 23 (1) : 102-. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Background: To address the hospital bed demand for Delta and Omicron surges in Singapore, the National University Health System (NUHS) developed a COVID Virtual Ward to relieve bed pressures on its three acute hospitals—National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Alexandra Hospital. To serve a multilingual population, the COVID Virtual Ward featuring protocolized teleconsultation of high-risk patients, use of a vital signs chatbot, supplemented by home visits where necessary. This study aims to evaluate the safety, outcomes and utilisation of the Virtual Ward as a scalable response to COVID-19 surges. Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study of all patients admitted to the COVID Virtual Ward between 23 September to 9 November 2021. Patients were defined as “early discharge” if they were referred from inpatient COVID-19 wards and “admission avoidance” if they were referred directly from primary care or emergency services. Patient demographics, utilisation measures and clinical outcomes were extracted from the electronic health record system. The primary outcomes were escalation to hospital and mortality. Use of the vital signs chatbot was evaluated by examining compliance levels, need for automated reminders and alerts triggered. Patient experience was evaluated using data extracted from a quality improvement feedback form. Results: 238 patients were admitted to the COVID Virtual Ward from 23 September to 9 November, of whom 42% were male, 67.6% of Chinese ethnicity. 43.7% were over the age of 70, 20.5% were immunocompromised, and 36.6% were not fully vaccinated. 17.2% of patients were escalated to hospital and 2.1% of patients died. Patients who were escalated to hospital were more likely to be immunocompromised or to have a higher ISARIC 4C-Mortality Score. There were no missed deteriorations. All patients received teleconsults (median of 5 teleconsults per patient, IQR 3–7). 21.4% of patients received home visits. 77.7% of patients engaged with the vital signs chatbot, with a compliance rate of 84%. All patients would recommend the programme to others in their situation. Conclusions: Virtual Wards are a scalable, safe and patient-centered strategy to care for high risk COVID-19 patients at home. Trial Registration: NA.
Source Title: BMC Infectious Diseases
ISSN: 1471-2334
DOI: 10.1186/s12879-023-08040-2
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