A tale of a pandemic’s two curves
Medical pandemics come with two curves. There is a learning curve that challenges doctors, researchers, and governments to find the most effective responses. Meanwhile, there is an infection curve that must be moderated or flattened in order to get ahead of the crisis.
Slowing the spread of illness buys critical time for doctors and nurses to manage existing caseloads, while hospital systems and public health authorities gather additional tools and resources to contain, manage, and ultimately put an end to a pandemic.
For now, the new normal is necessary
No one is happy about dramatic changes to daily routines, but for now such changes appear to be the most effective means of curbing infections and saving lives.
From the suspension of sporting events and public gatherings to business closures and social distancing, Americans are adjusting to a new normal that seems likely to last another month or more.
When it comes to medical care, telehealth technologies are proving to be of great benefit for patients’ physical and mental health. History suggests those technologies are doing something more — saving lives.
Learning some lessons from history
A look at the 1918 flu pandemic that swept the world — which killed millions worldwide and 675,000 people in the U.S. — shows the difference lifestyle changes can make.
With no vaccine available — the first effective flu vaccine wasn’t until 1938 — U.S. cities took different approaches.
Philadelphia proceeded with a Liberty Loan parade, which fueled a spike in infections and deaths. St. Louis, by contrast, quickly shut schools and theaters and curtailed public gatherings, and had only one-eighth as many infections as Philadelphia.
In San Francisco, strong measures blunted the first wave of flu, but relaxed vigilance meant the city was struck harder in January 1919. Keeping measures in place, historians say, could have reduced deaths by 90%.
Coronavirus: Looking ahead
The course of the coronavirus pandemic is uncertain, but the resources available to combat it are far greater than a century ago. While research into a vaccine continues, physicians have three major advantages over 1918:
- First, hospital facilities are larger and better equipped, able to deal with effects of an outbreak, including drugs to treat secondary bacterial infections and ventilators to aid those who are most ill.
- Second, today’s highly connected society makes it easier to communicate information about non-pharmaceutical interventions, including business closures, quarantines, social distancing, and public health advisories.
- Third, physicians have electronic resources available to them that were unheard of in 1918, including the means to deliver care remotely via telehealth.
eClinicalWorks remains committed to meeting the needs of medical providers throughout this crisis and beyond. Our commitment to the innovation, tools, and service needed to meet emerging medical challenges is stronger than ever.