Officials Turn to Analytics to Predict COVID-19 Hotspots in Nursing Homes

An analytics company that provides data in real time about changes in patient conditions has launched an infectious disease surveillance program in the wake of the COVID-19 national emergency, with the goal of identifying hot spots for the disease before they gather steam.

Real Time Medical Systems, a provider of interventional analytics software based in Linthicum Heights, Md., also said on Friday that it would be announcing its first government contract to use the system soon.

“A huge U.S. county is now going to use us for all their nursing homes, looking for where’s the next infectious disease hotspot — where’s the next COVID hotspot,” Real Time executive chairman Dr. Scott Rifkin told Skilled Nursing News on Friday. “That way they can find it two or three days ahead of time, and focus their limited resources.”

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On Monday, Real Time announced that Montgomery County, in Pennsylvania, was going to use the surveillance system in the county’s nursing facilities, which volunteered to share their data.

Pressures on staff and extreme shortages of personal protective equipment across the health care spectrum make it imperative to catch the disease early, since doing so allows for better allocation of resources, he added.

Real Time provides interventional analytics for 1,000 facilities, with 55 in Maryland, 70 in Pennsylvania, and 60 in New Jersey, among others. The platform allows SNFs to catch early signs of medical problems by pulling information from facilities as it’s entered into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR).

The system is not itself a new product, but a new platform that Real Time first started developing about four weeks ago — when news of the first U.S. COVID-19 outbreak at a SNF in Kirkland, Wash., was starting to gather steam.

In the case of identifying COVID-19 hotspots, Real Time would identify such warning signs as increased temperature, high respiratory rate, cough, and shortness of breath. The data would be provided on a facility level to government and industry clients to protect individual patient privacy while allowing public health officials to identify potential outbreaks in SNFs.

The service has worked in identifying hotspots for COVID-19 “days before other folks noticed,” Rifkin told SNN. That data has been offered to state health departments, and the company is in discussions with several of them, he aded.

“This gives the health department a two- or three-day head start knowing what’s going on, in a real automated way,” he said. “They don’t have to call up every facility, they don’t have to wait for everybody to send in a written report.”

In addition, state associations for SNFs have been supportive, because the goal is to protect both their residents and their staff, Rifkin said.

The White House has also begun exploring ways that health care technology companies could work on surveillance and prevention, Rifkin pointed out. Real Time plans to start with counties or states that want to work with the company on developing the surveillance for skilled nursing facilities, but Rifkin believes Real Time’s product could be a national one.

Because as the cases of COVID-19 rise, the goal — as he emphasized — is for the nursing homes to protect patients and staff.

“I’ve got a son who is working in the ICU at Columbia Hospital in New York City,” Rifkin said. “This is personal. This is really personal.”

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