Currently submitted to: JMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Date Submitted: Oct 5, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Oct 5, 2020 - Oct 19, 2020
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Bridging learning in medicine and citizenship during the COVID-19 pandemic: A telehealth-based strategy
Introduction Throughout 2020, COVID-19 has been imposing great challenges for both health care practices and medical training. Here the authors described a strategy combining telehealth and medical training to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Approach The authors coordinated a toll-free telescreening service (Telecoronavirus) operated remotely by supervised medical students aimed at advising potential COVID-19 patients to stay at home or to seek further medical assistance, depending on the results from a constantly updated triage algorithm. The service, offered for all 417 municipalities of Bahia, Brazil (14.8 million inhabitants), intended to decrease virus spread by reducing unnecessary circulation of patients with mild symptoms. Students recorded clinical and social demographic data in a web application simultaneously accessed by medical volunteers for supervision purposes, as well as state health authorities for epidemiological surveillance and health management efforts. In parallel, students received up-to-date scientific information about COVID-19 by short educational videos prepared by faculty members. Outcomes The program operated for about 4 months, engaging 1,396 medical students and 133 physicians. In total, 111,965 individuals residing in 343 municipalities contacted the service. Almost 70,000 were advised to stay at home and received guidance to avoid disease transmission, possibly contributing to reducing local virus spread. Additionally, this project promoted citizenship education for medical students, who were engaged in a real-life experience to fight the pandemic in their community. The education, organization and assistance domains of the Telecoronavirus program were successfully realized according to physicians' and student‚Äôs opinions registered in a survey. Conclusion In a scenario of prolonged pandemic, a combination of remote tools with medical supervision and telehealth service may be a useful strategy for keeping social distancing while preserving some practical aspects of medical education. This low-cost tool can be especially valuable under limited health care resources, and to support epidemiological surveillance actions.
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