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Q&A: New efforts to test patients for COVID-19 at home (Includes interview)

Ready Responders, an on-demand health service has announced its plans to provide at-home care and COVID-19 testing for patients to alleviate hospitals.

With recent Series B funding of $48 million from GV and Deerfield, Ready Responders is preparing to expand to serve other markets including District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Florida, California and Texas during the coronavirus crisis.

To understand more about the test kit and the support service, Digital Journal spoke with Dr. Olan Soremekun.

Digital Journal: What are the symptoms associated with COVID-19?

Dr. Olan Soremekun: People who have been infected with COVID-19 can experience a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include fever, cough, and fatigue initially. Some patients experience additional flu like symptoms including nasal congestion and sore throat. More severe symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion and blue colored lips and face suggesting low oxygen levels in the body. However, some people may be infected with COVID-19 and not show any signs or symptoms.

DJ: How important is testing for the coronavirus?

Soremekun: COVID-19 has infected close to one million people around the world to-date, and that number is expected to continue to grow. While the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, transmission can also occur by touching contaminates surfaces, as it’s highly contagious and spreads very easily. Given that it can take between 2 and 14 days after exposure for someone to start showing symptoms – and others may not show symptoms at all – it’s critical that people quarantine at home and distance themselves from other people as much as possible.

Additionally, to mitigate transmission and properly treat those who have been infected, it’s essential that people are able to get tested for the virus as early as possible. While some people may only have a mild form of the virus, and therefore do not need to get tested and can recover at home, others may need immediate and accurate access to COVID-19 testing. This is because a positive diagnosis can provide insight for medical professionals and help better inform treatment plans for patients who are exhibiting symptoms – which in some cases, can be the difference between life and death. It can also help reduce transmission and inform staffing decisions for medical professionals, first responders, and essential workers who may be infected but not yet showing symptoms and should self-quarantine.

DJ: What type of care do patients need?

Soremekun: The treatment for COVID-19 is dependent on the severity of each individual patient’s symptoms. Patients who test positive are encouraged to immediately begin self-isolation, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and monitor their symptoms. While some people will have mild symptoms and don’t need medical treatment, others – especially those who have pre-exciting conditions that impact their immune system or cardiac function – may require more in-depth care. This can include hospitalizations to help manage the virus and provide breathing support through the use of a mechanical ventilator.

DJ: What type of personnel work for your organization?

Soremekun: Ready Responders is comprised of a highly trained, multidisciplinary team of paramedics, EMTs, and nurses who provide on-scene care. They are our Responders. They are supported by clinicians including doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, who offer additional support and care to patients via telehealth. The company provides whole-person care, addressing the physical, mental and social health needs of patients through a variety of visit types including urgent care, post-discharge transitional care and community care.

DJ: How can at home care help with the burden on hospitals?

Soremekun: During the COVID-19 crisis, hospital volumes are at an all-time-high, with an influx of patients being screened and treated for the virus. To manage COVID-19 and help reduce the burden on hospitals, at-home care is critical, as it can help alleviate staff, save the hospital beds for those who need it most and reduce further transmission.

By providing care to patients at their homes, first responders, as well as urgent-care services such as Ready Responders, can see patients in quarantine, away from hospitals and other people who may be infected. This not only helps reduce the chances of passing the virus to the most vulnerable and other healthcare professionals, but it also helps alleviate hospitals and emergency rooms that are being overwhelmed with the influx of sick patients, creating a shortage of PPE and available beds.

With hospital volumes at an all-time high due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to do our best to save the necessary resources, such as ventilators and hospital/ICU beds, for the extremely sick patients with COVID-19. By treating and assessing patients at home, including those at risk of COVID-19 as well as others who have non-virus-related health needs, we can help reduce the current and growing burden on health facilities.

DJ: How have you expanded your business in light of the pandemic?

Soremekun: Ready Responders is committed to helping to fill quality gaps in care by addressing the physical, mental and social health needs of our patients. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have provided even greater support to treating patients in the communities we serve, including those with and without the virus. In addition, we are also working diligently to rapidly expand our services, including COVID-19 testing, beyond Louisiana and Nevada to other markets including New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore Maryland followed by major urban settings in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida in the coming weeks and months.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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