The team will look at how the vast amounts of data collected from patients during their treatment by the District’s virtual hospital, rpavirtual can be better integrated into their electronic medical record (eMR) and aims to develop a universal Australian platform that is compatible with most monitoring devices.

Launched on 3 February 2020, rpavirtual was one of the first full-scale virtual hospitals in Australia, and has provided safe, high-quality care for 1,267 COVID-19 patients in the first ten months of its operation.

“We’ve seen remote patient monitoring technology, like pulse oximeters, emerge as a weak link in the virtual hospital model of care,” said one of the project’s Principal Investigators Professor Andrew Wilson, who is also the Co-Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney. “We don’t know much about the reliability of these monitoring devices in real world settings such as patient’s homes or quarantine hotels.”

“The data we collect from the oximeters can’t be transferred automatically into the patient’s eMR – meaning oftentimes the patients have to read their results aloud to clinicians who are manually entering the data into eMR.”

Monitoring patient’s blood-oxygen levels is a key indicator of a COVID-19 deterioration - crucial for patients who have COVID-19 and have been identified as needing monitoring, observation and follow-up in case their symptoms develop to the point of needing acute inpatient care. 

The project’s other Principal Investigator, Professor Warwick Britton, who is also Research Director at Sydney Local Health District and a member of Sydney Health Partners’ Research Committee, says integration of the data should improve patient outcomes.

“By fully integrating clinical data, we can assist clinicians in spotting trends in a patient’s condition, as well as allowing for rapid use of data in process and quality improvement, and research.”

The project has recently received approximately $670,000 from the Medical Research Future Fund, part of a $4 million announcement for COVID research – but the results will be applicable beyond COVID.

“We’re taking COVID-19 as a prototype for future pandemics, but it’s also likely to have many parallels with the management of other respiratory diseases like seasonal influenza,” Professor Britton said.