Medical Technology

A COVID Monitoring System based on text could Reduce Deaths

Editor’s note: Find the most recent COVID-19 news and guidelines in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The season of travel for the holidays is just near, but coronavirus cases are already beginning to rise. A new automated texting system could ease the burden on emergency departments, and decrease mortality rates, if COVID-19 cases increase this winter.

COVID Watch, a remote monitoring program based on text program developed by the University of Pennsylvania Health System and showed an increase of 68% in mortality risk when compared with patients who received standard treatment. This was the principal conclusion of a study released by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers also found that patients who were enrolled in this program were more likely to seek treatment in an emergency room (ED) and were admitted to the ED on average 2 days earlier than those who receive standard care.

“When our clinical team designed COVID Watch, the aim was to facilitate hospital care for patients who need it, while supporting access to healthcare for patients who can safely remain at home,” study author M. Kit Delgado, MD, MS, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, said in an interview.

Researchers had initially hoped COVID Watch would relieve pressure on EDs, Delgado said.

Significantly Lower Mortality Rates Among COVID Watch Group

For the study, Delgado and colleagues enrolled 3,488 patients in COVID Watch and 4,377 in the usual care group to compare outcomes at 30 and 60 days.

“We did not include patients who were diagnosed with COVID in the ER or in a hospital, so this is a lower-risk group of patients who have a positive test in outpatient settings,” Delgado noted. “Outpatients who received standard treatment and COVID Watch both had low mortality, but it was significantly lower among those who were on COVID Watch.”

Researchers found that 3 patients in the COVID Watch group died within 30 days of their enrollment and 12 people in the control group. After 60 days of enrolling 5 patients in COVID Watch died, compared with 16 people who were not using the system. The usual care group suffered more than one-third of deaths and COVID Watch had zero deaths.

More than half of participants were Black or Latino

Researchers found that the messaging system reduced mortality rates in “all major ethnic and racial groups”. More than half the patients who participating in COVID Watch were Black or Latino.

Delgado stated that this is crucial because Black and Hispanic populations have experienced higher levels of exposure and infection, lower access to healthcare, and higher mortality rates. The results suggest that this program may help to reduce the disparities in COVID outcomes, in the event that it is expanded more widely.

Outside Expert: COVID Watch Bring New Approach to Digital Health Monitoring

The study not only highlights the efficacy and sustainment of the COVID Watch program, but it sheds light on the possibility of using text message monitoring systems on other chronic disease conditions According to Jamie Faro, PhD, who was not involved in the study.

“It brings a new method of health monitoring through digital means, which may reduce the burden on health providers and will be more cost-effective than traditional care methods,” said Faro, who is an assistant professor in the department of population and quantitative health sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. “Text messaging, which is used daily by more than 80 percent of Americans allows us to reach large segments of the population for remote monitoring of health care.”

Researchers from the current study said that the results “reveal an outpatient health system management strategy for patients suffering from COVID-19 and possibly other conditions where early detection of clinical declines could be vital.” Faro stated that COVID Watch can have a measurable impact on an outcome that can be life or death. It is essential to know how to reach out to those who “were not provided with the opportunity” or “refused to participate in the program.”

Faro and the authors of the paper did not disclose any information.

This article was first published on It is part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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