Chad Saley from CompHealth asked me to talk about COVID-19. Although I'm not an expert, I told him how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected my hospital here in Memphis, Tennessee. For example, everyone entering the hospital, including staff, is screened with a questionnaire and with a thermometer for fever. Visitation was initially reduced and has now been essentially eliminated.
Another significant change is the incorporation of telemedicine into our work for inpatient consults in the emergency room to limit staff exposure to patients with unknown or positive COVID status. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, regulations regarding telemedicine have been temporarily relaxed. The new rules permit medical personnel to use consumer-level telemedicine technology like Facetime or Zoom instead of expensive and cumbersome proprietary software with more rigorous privacy controls.
I'm working hard to prepare a Grand Rounds on the neurologic complications of COVID-19. This is a new virus, and there is much we don't know about its effects on human beings. As we treat more patients, we gradually appreciate the spectrum and frequency of neurologic symptoms. The American Academy of Neurology has done a great job with its website and podcasts keeping neurologists up to date on COVID-19. We don't know yet whether the virus directly affects the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nervous system. Neurologic symptoms could be due to inflammation or systemic illness, for example, rather than direct viral damage.
As eerily predicted by Bill Gates in a 2015 Ted Talk, the global pandemic is placing great strains on individuals and the global economy. It's obvious that preparation for this crisis could have been more thorough and deliberate. This critique is vital because COVID-19 may not be the last "novel" virus to threaten the lives of millions of people. Once we emerge from this calamity, there's much to do to prevent a repeat of COVID-19!
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