Integrating travel history information into routine medical tests could help stem the rapidly widening global coronavirus outbreak, as well as future pandemics, according to a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
How Electronic Medical Records Can Help
- The study said that electronic medical records of patients make this task much more easier. What we need is to implement it in a way to make it useful to the care teams.
- Once the infrastructure is built, we’ll also need to communicate what is called ‘situational awareness’ to ensure that providers know what geographic areas have infections so that they can act accordingly,” said the study.
- The researchers noted that a simple, targeted travel history can help put infectious symptoms in context for physicians and caregiver teams.
- This information can provide more detailed patient case history, enable further testing, and rapid implementation of protective measures for others in affected households, co-workers, or health care personnel.
- Shared electronic health records can integrate travel history with computerised decision-making support to suggest specific diagnoses in recent travellers.
- This could help in much the same way as trained medical teams routinely ask about tobacco exposure to ascertain levels of cancer and heart disease risk.
Threat of Communicable Diseases
According to the study:
- The urgent threat of communicable diseases comes with significant morbidity and mortality, tremendous health care disruptions and resource utilization, and collateral economic and societal costs.
- Emergence of novel respiratory diseases in the past two decades — such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012-2013, and COVID-19 from China — demonstrate the need for change.
- Currently COVID is similar in that there are geographic clusters, but those lines may be blurring as the outbreak expands.
- According to the scientists, the challenges and potential stress on the public health infrastructure, including the hospitals which are part of this, will be notable in that we could see large numbers of patients.
- The researchers believe that the current outbreak is an opportune time to consider adding travel history to the routine.