All posts by Shreya Thiagarajan

PPE for COVID-19

Survey Shows Just How Dire PPE Shortages Are at Many Hospitals

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Shreya Thiagarajan

As Texas reopens public spaces before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown ends, a question on a lot of people’s minds is how we can resume normal activity outside without being at substantial risk of contracting the coronavirus. Previously, the Center for Disease Control stated only those with COVID-19 or healthcare workers directly serving coronavirus patients were required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of the virus. However, more and more counties are increasingly requiring their residents to wear a cloth face covering or mask when visiting public places, such as grocery stores. 

The N95 respirator (or the European equivalent, known as FFP2) is one of the most effective masks recommended by the World Health Organization to wear by healthcare workers due to its ability to filter out about 95% of small particles. Yet, due to the shortage of masks and PPE in the United States, most healthcare workers resort to using and reusing existing masks that are available in the workplace; N95 masks are now mainly restricted to those tasked with aerosol-generating procedures. 

The rest of the public falls under the category of restricting virus spread in “non-healthcare settings”, as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security. Mask use in these community settings is not mandated, and there exists no formal recommendation of a specific DIY mask to wear because research on household materials’ ability to filter out virus particles has not been studied extensively. The CDC has guidelines for mask creation and use, stating that masks should be made with several layers of fabric, should be secured around the ears and fit snugly against the face, should allow for unrestricted breathing, and should be machine washable. It is only strongly recommended to wear these masks in public settings where social distancing is hard to carry out, such as grocery stores. Those under the age of two and those with other breathing issues need not wear the mask unless they are suspected of carrying the virus but are asymptomatic.


Is patient satisfaction lower without in person visits?

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Image from Health eCareers

Shreya Thiagarajan

Can people get health advice via a video chat?  It’s certainly more convenient. There is increasing utilization of these so-called “virtual care” evaluations.  What might be missed compared to an in person visit? Will it be more or less satisfying for patients?

One study found that over two thirds of patients surveyed in an American Well survey reported satisfaction with a video visit — compared to one third that preferred office visits — and that most dissatisfaction stemmed from a technical issue with the video software that, if solved, led to positive reviews. One possible explanation for increased satisfaction from video visits is that it cuts down on transportation costs. The telemedicine system has been especially effective in the rural Appalachian region where many patients suffering from cardiovascular disease can now easily access a healthcare professional remotely rather than having to drive several hours to the closest health center. Additionally, remote consultations also allow increased patient independence and engagement, that is, they are more likely to participate in maintaining their own health to avoid in-person visits.

Post operative patients also benefit from telemedicine as an extended hospital stay may contribute to an increased risk of getting hospital-acquired infections. Instead, when they are sent home after a surgery, they are monitored by sensors that report patient vitals and other measures to health professionals remotely so they are still able to access help if something goes wrong. Telemedicine is still developing as a technology and may not serve as a complete replacement for office visits, but rather as a supplement to in-person consultations. However trends indicate that telemedicine is increasing in popularity across the country and chances are, you or someone you know may soon become familiar with telehealth.


The Toilet May Not Be the Dirtiest Thing in Your House

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Photo from Digital Trends

Shreya Thiagarajan

Most people are quick to point to the toilet as being the “dirtiest” thing in their houses. After all, it comes in contact with bodily excretions, so it must house the most bacteria, right?

Studies show that it may actually be your cell phone that is the dirtiest item you own. It is estimated that your cell phone is likely home to ten times more bacterial colonies than the toilet seat is, one study showing that the typical cell phone has nearly 1500 bacterial “hotspots” compared to only around 200 on a toilet. You may think, “a toilet seat probably has more dangerous or infectious bacteria because it has more exposure to bodily fluids.” However, one in six smartphones have come into contact with fecal matter, and several strains of harmful pathogens like Streptococcus (responsible for strep throat), E. coli, and MRSA (antibiotic resistant Staph) have been discovered on phone screens as well. 

The smartphone may be much dirtier than a toilet because it is carried nearly everywhere and comes into contact with several different surfaces, including your own face. It is also not cleaned as often as a toilet seat may be. This gives bacteria in contact with the phone screen the opportunity to accumulate and spread to other surfaces. To keep your phone clean, it is recommended that you wipe the screen with microfiber cloth sprayed lightly with an antimicrobial solution weekly to prevent excessive bacterial growth!