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Testing, vaccine, HIT…what’s next for coronavirus?

As coronavirus continues to dominate the news, it’s important to understand progress we’re making in possible treatments.

As a pharmacist working for a health information technology (HIT) company, I think there are a few key things we can do to help this current epidemic as well as future infectious disease outbreaks. But first, let’s review some of the background and actions underway.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus named SARS-CoV-2. It was first identified in China and has spread to numerous countries around the globe. As a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), strong measures are being taken to understand more about COVID-19, to identify and treat infected patients, and to minimize further spread of the disease.

Toward these goals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first and only emergency COVID-19 test that was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The COVID-19 Real-Time RT-PCR diagnostic panel is a test that has been limited to CDC laboratories, or any lab in the country that is CDC-qualified to test for the virus. FDA commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., said: “This continues to be an evolving situation and the ability to distribute this diagnostic test to qualified labs is a critical step forward in protecting the public health.”

Additionally, one biotech company, Moderna, has made significant progress on vaccine development in just a few short weeks. In a press release on Feb. 24, Moderna stated it has released the first batch the company’s vaccine against the novel coronavirus and the vaccine is being evaluated as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Phase 1 study.

Health IT also plays a critical role in addressing public health emergencies. Solutions are available to help educate, prevent, identify, report and manage diseases such as COVID-19.

In response to COVID-19, the capture of travel and exposure history, as well as the ability to assess clinical symptoms within the EHR, have enabled Clinical Decision Support in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations to be delivered at the point of care.

To enable rapid response, it is essential that all involved take an All-Hazards approach when developing an emergency response plan.

Allscripts has plans to actively monitor and respond to public health emergencies. Through learnings from past outbreaks, response plans have been improved to allow for a more rapid and effective response. It is important to develop and refine these processes outside of a crisis period to allow for a dedicated focus during an active response.

Finally, it is essential that health IT vendors stay up to date on the most recent information pertaining to public health emergencies. Partnering with organizations, such as the CDC, allows for open communication, which is essential for responding to emergencies.

By employing an All-Hazards approach, we are in a better position to more rapidly and effectively respond to these critical emergencies.

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