Transporting patients in the Covid Bag (guest post: Gary Breen MD)

Despite N95’s and protective gear, the entire Life Flight Crew came down with COVID the last time they transported your patient on a ventilator to a higher level of care. Now what?!

The Problem

How are intubated and ventilated Covid-19 patients transported?  As a hospitalist located at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, I have had to intubate and initial mechanical ventilation on a number of patients infected with Covid-19. 

Initially, following the onset of this pandemic, these critically ill patients were being transported via rotor or fixed wing aircraft to our larger UCHealth facilities on the Front Range for optimal care by flight crews donning PPE which included N95 masks, goggles or face shields, gowns and gloves. 

Despite this protective gear, many of the flight crews contracted Covid, which resulted in some emergency transport services becoming grounded until crews could recover.  A better, safer option for transporting these patients was needed.

The ISO-POD

Originally developed to transport patients infected with the Ebola virus, The ISO-POD is negative-pressure patient isolation and transport system which allows us to safely transport critically ill Covid-19 patients, while simultaneously providing protection to our emergency personnel.  The device has a port which allows for ventilator tubing, IV lines, and monitoring lines to pass, as well as 12 gloved iris openings to allow the flight crew staff access to the patient from head to toe. 

Packaging the patient

The patient is placed into the ISO-POD, and the bag is closed and sealed, then sterilized over the exterior surface to allow for transport.  Air movement into and out of the device passes through filters to remove viral pathogens, ensuring that flight crews remain safe during transport, which can only occur in a fixed-wing aircraft. 

Packaging patients up in the ISO-POD is a logistic challenge, often requiring 1-2 hours for crews to safely prepare patients for transfer.  The majority of our transfers from Steamboat are via Classic Air, who maintain three reusable ISO-POD devices, and a flight crew of over 300 people.  The ISO-POD has allowed Classic to transport numerous Covid patients without any crew infections.

Keeping our flight crews safe, and allowing hospitals to fight this thing together

The “Covid bag” has become an invaluable, and all too familiar tool, allowing us to transfer our critical Covid patients to larger UCHealth facilities in order to receive optimal care, while still keeping our flight crews safe.  As a physician caring for these patients, I am incredibly thankful to our dedicated flight crews for job they do, and appreciative of innovative technology such as the ISO-POD.

Gary Breen MD
Physician Informaticist
Hospitalist, Internal Medicine
Yampa Valley Medical Center, UCHealth

I am NOT Throwin’ Away My Shot – Covid Vaccine (ukulele)

I wondered what Lin-Manuel meant when he wrote this song. Turns out, it was for THIS moment.

While my colleagues are working hard delivering vaccine doses to healthcare workers as fast as we can (15,000 doses given in the last 5 days! Woo!), I’m hard at work at the Ukulele Parody Studios.

Here it is: the world premiere of a song that seems titled for this moment in time: I am not throwin’ away MY SHOT.

Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda for the original, and the overall miracle of the Hamilton musical. No thanks to him, on how hard this song is to sing.

Happy holidays, y’all.

This is the best Covid-19 graph I’ve ever seen

Perhaps the image of the year. Control group vs Vaccine group in the Pfizer trial: see the red line COMPLETELY FLATTEN at 10 days.

The Pfizer vaccine flat-out works. Read the New England Journal of Medicine article yourself; open access:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577

But, what’s the TL;DR?

  1. The control group (blue line measuring cumulative, or total number of infections of Covid-19 in the control group) grows at a constant rate, as expected.
  2. The vaccine group (red line) rises in parallel for the first 9 days, and then by day 10, BAM the red line is almost completely flat, indicating almost NO infections in the vaccine group. This makes sense, as it takes the body awhile to detect the vaccine antigen (spike protein), then manufacture antibodies in great volume

SO COOL. As Michelle Barron MD, our infection prevention specialist states: “I would have been happy with a vaccine that is 50% effective, like the flu shot some years. This one is 95% effective.”

Wow. Hang in there everybody.

I am NOT throwing away my Shot (I got mine today!)

Covid-19 Vaccine! I got mine! And University of Colorado Hospital is set up to give over 1000 doses per day just at our hospital.

As you know, Covid-19 vaccine is out in the wild. Colorado received the first shipment earlier this week, and we at UCHealth received the first 17,000 doses. We set up an infrastructure to schedule vaccinations through My Health Connection, our patient portal. We sent out over 10,000 invitations this week, and already 5000 health care workers have already booked their appointment. IN 48 HOURS! Never have I ever heard of something moving this fast. 97% of physicians/providers state their willingness and intent to be vaccinated.

Among my colleagues, many of us were hitting “refresh” waiting for our invite to schedule the vaccine. Last night, I was super excited receive my invite. Woo! So organized the portal ensures you book both appointments at the same time. Super simple!

Then, super easy on arrival; we use our patient portal to e-check in, verify my demographics, read the consent form for the vaccine, so that my check in can be super simple and super quick. Yes!

And here we are! 8 check-in stations humming smoothly. Everyone masked up, smiling, everyone so excited to be part of DOING SOMETHING to fight back against the pandemic. Bam!

Here we are in our auditorium. Sixteen vaccination stations, with appointments every 10 minutes, and vaccine service hours from 5am through 9pm. I calculate our capacity to vaccinate about 1000 people a day. This just at UCH; we have 9 other vaccine locations throughout UCHealth’s hospitals in Steamboat, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak, also actively vaccinating. Our goal: to administer our entire received batch before Christmas day. Zowie!

I got mine! 15 minutes socially distanced in the auditorium to observe for immediate reaction, and then done! In and out in about 30 minutes! Woo!

As you know, the FDA and CDC guidance is: Healthcare workers and long term care residents and staff first (winter), then high risk general public (spring) and then general public (summer). We are getting started, and have infrastructure now to deliver shots just a quickly as possible. We anticipate vaccinating up to 20% of all people of the State of Colorado. Hope to see you here soon!

CMIO’s take? I am NOT throwin’ away MY SHOT! (could it be there is a new ukulele song/rap? … stay tuned!)

Podcast alert: Alphafold and the Future of Physicians

First, go listen to the story. It is only 10 minutes and worth it.

Then

Here

Are

My

Observations.

There. Just wanted to give you some space to listen and then come back. Here’s my take. I did this originally on twitter, but it turns out, I need lessons on creating an easily connectable twitter thread (yikes, another thing to learn and master).

This Podcast is excellent.

@Doctor_V is spot on. Agree: industrialization of docs means there is no time for most docs to tinker with test tubes in the back office of their busy clinic. Even academic medical centers find the legendary ‘triple threat’ docs (clinician, teacher, researcher) increasingly rare. 1/

And then, information transparency means medical literature is widely and instantly disseminated: the myth of the all-knowing doc is eroding. Some patients with rarer diseases can study enough to be nearly as expert and up to date, albeit without the broad clinical experience of years of medical practice. 2/

Furthermore, the explosion of new information and knowledge is too fast for ANY human to keep up with. This is due in part to the technology acceleration, due to growth in globalization and ability to communicate and connect many minds with many ideas. Only purpose-built AI’s have a chance to digest such a deluge. 3/

The bad news: human minds will not keep up, from here on out. The good news: we can become centaurs: half human, half horse (or AI-assisted). Chess, for example, in unlimited tournaments, is most often won by human-computer hybrid teams. I think this is our foreseeable model in healthcare, and in a growing number of fields. 4/

And in the long run, perhaps we are all out of a job? I don’t agree with that either. TV did not knock out radio. Cable did not knock out broadcast TV. Internet did not knock out cable. The landscape just looks different. 5/

Finally, I agree with Dr. Vartebedian’s point: we need to look up more from our grindstones and see what is on the horizon. If the technology acceleration continues, it will come at us faster. And we need to prepare ourselves and educate our patients, our communities. Thanks for reminding us. Amazing things ahead. 6/end.

Covid Vaccine education: THIS is how you do it (Denver Health Grand Rounds)

Want to know how to teach science that makes sense to scientists as well as the general public? And, it is about Covid vaccine effectiveness and safety. Watch and learn. So proud of our Denver Health Colleagues.

I am unhappy that many physicians and scientists are so bad at educating colleagues and the general public on important topics. We get too much into the weeds, we lose sight of the forest when describing the trees too-up-close.

Dr. Anuj Mehta, a physician at Denver Health held a grand rounds that blows these low expectations out of the water. In 40 minutes, he tells us:

  • How vaccines work in general
  • Why and how the new Covid mRNA vaccines work
  • The actual safety data from the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca trials
  • How vaccine approval works in the US, and what the FDA and CDC are saying
  • He then summarizes “COVID-19 Vaccine: Reasons Why NOT To Be Scared”

Finally, in our recent surveys of physicians and staff at my organization, over 97% of physicians state they plan to get the vaccine, while only about 65% of medical assistants state this. This speaks to both physician confidence in the science, and also to the concerning gap that we are not teaching our non-physician colleagues adequately about the science and how important this is.

CMIO’s take? 1. This is a tour-de-force, folks. Watch it. Learn. There are brighter days ahead. 2. Please spread the word. Vaccinations will save lives. AND, continue to wear masks and social distance. It all works together.

Turn Inward to Keep the Flame Burning. Dr. Elizabeth Toll, RIMJ (news)

My good friend Dr. Elizabeth Toll, pediatrician, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, has done it again.

Her piece in the Rhode Island Medical Journal.

Her timely, moving portrait of the immigrants of the Bhutanense-Nepali refugee community is emblematic of the struggles and triumphs of immigrants in the United States. As an immigrant myself, I can relate. As a physician, I can relate.

She writes, however, for all humans. She shows us connection, and community.

It is heartbreaking, on-the-ground insightful, and I derived great solace from her soulful writing.

CMIO’s take? Read this. Happy Holidays.

Forest bathing: what is it good for?

Sometimes it is good to get away. Mind you, this photo is more than a year old (before pandemic), but it makes a few points…

Exercise

Remember to get some exercise. Just … not with 3 super-fit members of your family. Notice everyone having a good time running, except Dad with the barely suppressed grimace of pain and facial mask of determination.

Family

Remember, family members are supposed to support each other. And not run too fast for old people to keep up.

Forest

This is the beautiful Forest of Nisene Marks. I have to say, those articles about Forest Bathing? Yup, they’re right on. That time spent in the woods? When I wasn’t gasping for air, it was a spectacular place, a place to recharge.

Leisurely Jog

As always, I had agreed to go for a “leisurely jog” with the kids and with my baby sis. We would run up the path for maybe a mile or 2, then “It’ll be easy, coming back down! Come on! It’ll be fun!”

Grasping my iPhone with a death grip, I set off. Because, if you’re going to go for a run, your iPhone HAS to track your exercise, doesn’t it? As quippy daughter always says:

“Dad, it’s NOT about the steps. IT’S ABOUT THE LIFE.”

I disagree. If my exercise app doesn’t track it, what’s the point?

Nevertheless, we get to the top (barely). I sprint to the turnaround sign (because, Dads have to make a point). This causes nausea with imminent vagal response.

After some time spent with arms tripod-ed on the knees, gasping for air, concerned looks from the sister (the kids are immune to these cries for sympathy) and an extended period of hands-on-hips walking back down the trail, we commence our downward leg.

I was promised an easier time headed down. This was a complete fabrication.

It was several hours later (or so it seemed) we got back to the car.

CMIO’s take: I do have to admit, the smells, the sights, the laughter were a wonderful respite. Yes, we did bathe in the forest (with our clothes on). And it did refresh my spirit. How do YOU recharge?

News (WIRED) To Fix Asthma, Go Roll Around in the Dirt

Scientists plant a forest inside a preschool.

from WIRED.com

https://www.wired.com/story/what-forest-floor-playgrounds-teach-us-about-kids-and-germs/

Ok sure, not so easy. But, this is a fascinating story of scientists planting a forest ecology inside a randomly selected group of pre-school daycare playgrounds, comparing with control-group daycares, and studying what happens. You’ve got to read this.