It was not long after the launch of the Covidconnect service by the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) and PharmAccess foundation on April 23, 2020 when I received a call.
It must have been three days after I downloaded the Luscii app from play store.
“…I am calling from UGMC Covid Connect Care Coordination Centre. I see you have downloaded the application but are yet to activate for use…
I responded in the affirmative.
Kindly do so and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any challenges”, she said before the line dropped.
The introduction of Covidconnect through the Luscii, a virtual monitoring gives subscribers access to needed clinical support from a team of medical experts and specialists.
And so only days ago, I completed the activation process and since then each day, I receive an email especially when I forget to record my measurements.
“Dear Komla Adom,
I am here to support you with home monitoring. I will remind you if you do not send in the requested home monitoring results.
The following home monitoring results have not yet been sent in:
- Sore throat
- Breathing rate
- Loss of smell
- Shortness of breath
We would like to wish you every success with your activities today!
Luscii, Bring care to you.”
That is how I got hooked onto the Covidconnect service and many others have done same.
1,000 subscriber milestone
As of May 18, 2020 the service had recorded more than one thousand three hundred downloads on the Luscii app out of which one thousand and seventy nine (1079) were active users.
At a brief even to mark the 1000 subscriber milestone, chief executive officer of UGMC Dr. Darius Osei said, “we would continue playing a vital role in managing people away from the centre.”
Dr. Osei noted, “It has been exactly twenty five days since the launch and within three weeks we have hit 1000 active users of the software.
I would like to thank all staff members who have put in a lot to reach this milestone.
The target is to hit five thousand subscribers by end of year.”
UGMC Covid care coordination center visit
Despite marking this milestone, it is another day at the centre with more than six doctors seated behind monitors – busy at work.
One of them, Dr. Emmanuel Amoah communicates with one of the subscribers to conduct a review of the measurements keyed in – relating to his condition.
Doc: How are you today? I see you have keyed in your measurements – we are very happily that you keep updating them.
Patient: Yeah. I’m much better. Just a few coughs when I speak.
Doc: Very well. The measurements however show that the fever is not yet settled but your breathing rate is a bit okay even though you are still coughing.
Patient: That’s correct. I feel much better and I think I’m getting my appetite back also.
Doc: Your temperature readings too is okay but were you able to go for a walk today?
Patient: Yeah. I walked for an hour but at my own pace. Last night I did the same. I feel much much better I am even surprised.
Doc: We are happy about your progress. Our team of doctors will monitor your measurements over the next eight hours and by evening we would take a decision on how we can support you through this infection…
Patient: Great. That is assuring. That is assuring.
Doc: While at it make sure you wear your masks, wash your hands regularly and keep social distancing. Also make sure you are isolated away from any members of your family while at home.
Patient: I will. Thank you Doc.
That was a brief interaction between Dr. Amoah and a person with COVID who is under home management.
Another person, Francis Bigojah was told about the Luscii app and covid connect service by his doctor friend.
“…after I downloaded the app I was asked questions about covid – I filled in all my details. And from time to time they contact me to check how I am doing,” he told me.
Had he exhibited any symptoms after downloading and signing on to the service…?
“With respect to symptoms – I only realized that loss of smell was associated to covid through the app. Because I had loss of smell. And that perhaps was the only symptom I had at the time.”
At what point did he realize that he had a situation?
“…my sample was taken on May 1, 2020 and on May 6, my results were ready. So my covid status was confirmed to me that day on May 6. And since then I have been isolating at home.
How is care going?
“…It has been great. There is a daily checklist on the app – which I go through and anytime I do, I get a call from one of the doctors who gives me directions based on the findings or the measurements I key in…and it’s been good so far. “
That is Francis’ situation.
He is in high spirit.
The over one thousand subscribers of the covid connect service have their own stories too.
Covid care coordination centre doctors
Just as the patients and subscribers have their experiences with the app…the doctors here have theirs too.
Dr. Barbara Asare Afriyie is one of the doctors at the UGMC Covid Connect Care coordination center.
According to her, this has been a new experience.
“We had to be trained in how to conduct phone interviews with patients – how to use the app. On a typical day we do our work in the wards and out patients department and then come to the coordination centre.”
“We check the dashboard and identify patients who need to be contacted – some have specific symptoms that pop up and we call them and help them through it,” she tells me.
Dr. Asare Afriyie admits, “there are some patients manifest the symptoms but are scared to go to the hospital. But we are able to connect them with teams that visit them and take their samples for testing.”
Some are unable to properly key in their measurements onto the system. For such persons, “we use our clinical judgment to assess who needs care and what level of care do they need.
Some have been asked to come over to the hospital, others have been here to pick up their medications and are being managed at home.
Dr. Asare Afriyie said the covidconnect service has chalked some successes including limiting hospital visits by patients which has in turn cut down the exposure rates.
For specialist Family Physician Dr. Francis Addei, dealing with the anxieties and trauma for some patients can be exhausting.
He says they have to work to identify people who have anxieties and manage them.
He recounts an instance “I called one client and he told me its only a common cold he has and did not think it is anything that warrants a test.”
Dr. Addei said there have been mixed encounters with some clients.
“I had a client referred to me all the way from the Northern region and after two tests proved negative, he was unsettled.
It turned out it was another medical condition not pertaining to covid, but we had to deal with the acute stress condition. “
He admits some patients tend to be in high spirits.
Dr. Addei emphasizes the need for specialists to increase contact with patients and talk to them broadly offering cognitive behavioral therapy.
“We take care of their thought processes – so instead of thinking negative, they think positive and we try to guide them through activities that make them happy.”
“If listening to music, watching a movie or taking a walk eases their anxieties, we help them through them,” Dr. Francis Addei said.