New app will help Horizon doctors combat COVID-19

New Brunswick doctors in the Horizon Health Network will soon have a new app to help them combat the COVID-19 outbreak, says an infectious diseases specialist.

The Spectrum app will provide clear guidelines on what tests to do, what infection control to carry out, what treatments to provide, and how to manage some common complications, such as lung problems, said Dr. Gordon Dow.

"I think it's going to be significant," said Dow, the division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital.

The app, which could go live as early as today, will put best practice information in the doctors' hands at the bedside so they immediately know what actions to take, he said.

It will optimize treatment for patients with COVID-19, while protecting health-care workers and other patients from the viral infection.

There are 33 cases of COVID-19 in the province with the seven new cases that were announced on Thursday. All of the cases are travel-related.

Some other health organizations across Canada have already started using the app to deal with COVID-19 patients with great success, said Dow, citing the University of Alberta Health Services and Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador as examples.

All have seen an increase in the level of appropriateness in antimicrobial prescribing and a decrease in complications, he said.

Horizon Health Network/Facebook

Horizon plans to use the app for other infectious diseases, said Dow.

For now, it's focusing on COVID-19 and other diseases that can mimic it, such as pneumonia, he said.

Horizon is not co-ordinating with the Vitalité Health Network on using the app, said Dow, citing the need to move quickly.

Health officials are "always playing catch up" with COVID-19 because patients being diagnosed today were infected seven to 14 days prior, he said. Trying to harmonize between the two regional health authorities would further slow them down, said Dow.

"The challenge is to get ahead of this."

Worked 72 hours straight on proposal

Horizon's infectious team has lobbied over the yeas to get an app like Spectrum for other uses, but the funding wasn't there, said Dow.

"We have a diminishing pot and many demands."

Plus doctors in Horizon's hospitals already have access to another app that provides "excellent information."

"But you have to do a lot of reading to find out what to do sometimes," said Dow.

Given the urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak, having access to the Spectrum app became "imminently important," said Dow.

It's going to facilitate effective state of the art care. - Gordon Dow, infectious diseases specialist

There's a lot of information for doctors to "sift through." Some of it is "good scientific information," but there's a lot of misinformation as well, he said.

Moncton Hospital's Tim MacLaggan, who has a PhD in pharmacy, worked three days straight on a funding proposal.

Vice-president of medical, academic and research affairs Dr. Éduoard Hendriks and chief of staff Dr. John Dornan were "incredibly receptive" and had it approved within 24 hours, said Dow.

"It's going to facilitate effective state of the art care," he said.

"The whole idea with this application is to get down to the very basics of what's important. It's a very practical, quick tool."