CLEVELAND, Ohio — Patches originally used to detect fever in immunocompromised cancer patients are being used to detect the first signs of coronavirus in healthcare workers fighting the disease at University Hospitals.
The premise is simple — put on the patch, get a phone alert through Bluetooth when there’s a fluctuation in temperature. But the technology could help hospitals trace who the workers and patients have had contact with during a shift.
A fever is one of the primary symptoms used to diagnose COVID-19. State health professionals highly recommend that businesses take the temperature of employees reporting to work during the pandemic.
The small TempTraq patches are produced by Blue Spark Technology, headquartered in Westlake. The company created the patches so that parents worried about a sick child could monitor a fever remotely, without interrupting sleep.
UH has used the patches for cancer patients since 2016. The patches can help detect a fever two to three hours earlier than manual processes, said Dr. Theodoros Teknos, president and scientific director for UH Seidman Cancer Center.
Even if health care workers are wearing appropriate personal personal protective equipment, they can be exposed to the coronavirus by an asymptomatic patient.
“Especially when you’re working and moving around in an adrenaline-filled environment, its not so easy to tell if you have temperature elevation,” Teknos said.
Though the commonly-referenced “normal” temperature is 98.6 degrees, that baseline can vary by individual. Because the patch is constantly monitoring temperature, it accounts for fluctuations from that person’s baseline.
Any significant changes go to an app in a worker’s phone and to a central hub monitored by a nurse. By having these results, the system can track down other people exposed. And when workers go home, they can be aware of a spike and seek treatment or self-isolate.
Teknos said there’s been “significant interest” in the patches from workers since the system began offering the patches this week and that the patches are a good example of innovation pushed forward by the coronavirus.
“We’re actually monitoring their physiology as well,” he said. “It’s another way that we’re trying to keep them safe and keep our coworkers and our patients safe. “