For Immediate Release:
July 7, 2020
LONDON, Ontario – Receiving a positive COVID-19 test result can be both scary and overwhelming due to the potentially serious and largely unknown consequences of the virus. To better support those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, six physicians at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) have developed a new care pathway to identify, triage, monitor, and manage the potential complications of the disease through a new virtual clinic. Physicians supporting the Urgent COVID-19 Care Clinic at LHSC are caring for individuals referred from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Emergency Department, and family practitioners, as well as LHSC patients discharged from inpatient services.
“We ultimately want to connect with anyone in London who has tested positive for COVID-19 as soon as possible after diagnosis,” explains Dr. Erin Spicer, a general internist at LHSC and one of the creators of the clinic. “Research is showing that patients with COVID-19 may not seek care until it’s too late because the symptoms of low oxygen levels may not be noticeable early in this disease. By the time they do exhibit signs and get help, they can be at a critical stage in the disease.”
The clinic is hoping to work with all those who are recovering from COVID-19, regardless of their current severity of symptoms, to prevent potential future clinical deterioration by giving them a process they can use to self-monitor their health with ongoing access to virtual physician support.
For those who are assessed by the clinic to be at a higher-risk for hypoxia (an inadequate supply of oxygen), a pulse oximeter, which is a non-invasive device that is used to self-monitor the amount of oxygen carried in the body, will be provided at no cost for temporary use. Once the oximeter is in hand, physicians explain through a virtual consult how to monitor symptoms, how to use the device, and when to call the clinic, the on-call physician, or an ambulance.
There is also an intake process for patients of the physician-led clinic who need to be admitted to LHSC due to new or worsening symptoms. Patients will be admitted directly to their designated bed with the appropriate personal protective equipment when they arrive at the hospital thereby avoiding the Emergency Department and decreasing the risk of exposure to health-care providers and other patients.
The clinic concept was developed by Drs. Marko Mrkobrada, Michael Nicholson, Erin Spicer, and Megan Devlin. They, along with Drs. Inderdeep Dhaliwal and Jaclyn Ernst, plan to follow patients over the next year to ensure they have the support they need including appropriate referrals.
“As the Health Unit continues its effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 in our community, the care and support patients receive from the Urgent COVID-19 Care Clinic, as well as from other primary care physicians in the community, ensures they have the best chance to make a full recovery,” says Dr. Alex Summers, Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
The virtual clinic will be overseen by the Department of Medicine and will run as a continuous quality improvement initiative. It will undergo multiple plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles to ensure the process is as efficient and easy as possible for patients, while still producing meaningful data needed by the physician team to inform an appropriate care response.
For Dr. Spicer, the opportunity to provide this level of support for patients in the community is important. “We are providing comprehensive care in a single unified clinic and will continue to support patients moving forward to help with any complications that arise. This type of patient-centered care is why we all went into medicine.”
Note: Interviews are available with Dr. Erin Spicer today, Tuesday, July 7, from 1:30 - 2:30 pm. Please contact Mandy Gelinas to arrange an interview time.
About London Health Sciences Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 145 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 70 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca
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Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 75157
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