New early warning system to detect COVID-19 developed in Cork

New early warning system to detect COVID-19 developed in Cork
Stephen Cusack, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH

Researchers in Cork have developed a new early warning system for Covid-19 which aims to detect symptoms of the coronavirus among frontline medical staff.

The Covid-19 Remote Early Warning System (CREW) is currently being trialled among medical staff at Cork University Hospital, and its developers say it is showing promising results.

It comes as latest figures show 2,312 cases of COVID-19 had been reported amongst healthcare workers in Ireland up to midnight on April 10th. 

This includes 194 healthcare workers in the HSE South region which encompasses Cork and Kerry.

As part of the trial, five volunteers at the hospital have been wearing underarm thermometers, which are connected to smartphones.

Their temperature readings are sent to a monitoring platform on an hourly basis, and if a staff member’s temperature shows signs of being higher than the norm, they are alerted to take appropriate action and self-isolate.

More volunteers are now to be added and wearable devices introduced to improve the data set and test the accuracy and efficacy of CREW over a longer period of time.

The early warning system has been developed in partnership between the College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork (UCC), the Cork-based software consultancy 8 West, The ASSERT centre and Tyndall National Institute at UCC.

Dr Patrick Henn, Director Research and Education at the ASSERT Centre in UCC pointed out that 10-25 per cent of all diagnosed cases of the coronavirus are among the healthcare community working to halt the spread of the disease. 

“The single common variable in all cases of the Covid-19 virus is a rise in body temperature. CREW is a quarantine management platform that will hopefully allow us identify healthcare staff remotely who may be developing a temperature that may be an early sign of Covid-19 and who therefore should not present to work,” he said.

John Murphy, CEO of 8 West Consulting, who developed the solution, says CREW has the potential to help not only individual medics but the wider hospital population, and the general public.

"Exceptional times call for an exceptional response. This technology has been developed over the last three weeks through a huge and remarkably open effort on the part of our partners in UCC, CUH, and the team at 8 West, with technical and hardware support from Sony Network Communications Europe, Cambridge Wireless Vodafone Ireland, Huawei, Davra, BlueBridge Technologies and others.

"When Covid-19 struck we asked ourselves what can we do to help protect the wellbeing of healthcare workers who by the nature of their jobs are being exposed to Covid-19 on an ongoing basis? The technical community has the responsibility, and the skills to rapidly evolve and deploy a solution to support Healthcare workers, and that is what we are doing."

CREW will be available initially on iOS and Android products including phones and wearables, with other operating systems to follow.

8 West’s John Murphy says the goal of CREW is to make the solution available to as many frontline staff as possible in Ireland and around the world.

Professor Stephen Cusack, recently retired Prof of Emergency Medicine (EM), UCC, Specialty Expert in EM at UCC Academy, Consultant EM at CUH commented: "CUH Emergency Department staff are delighted to have helped pioneer an innovative 24-hour monitoring device like this. We are 24 hours on the front line of care daily, and it's good to know that efforts like this are being made to support our wellbeing 24 hours a day too."

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