Nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities throughout the country have reported significant clusters of SARS-CoV-2 infection, often with high associated mortality among the residents infected. The recent COVID-19 outbreak has raised questions about the need for improved infectious disease prevention measures, earlier infection detection and coordinated management of infectious diseases in nursing homes and LTC facilities.
As a result of the pandemic, it is likely that LTC facilities will come under greater scrutiny by federal and state agencies, as well as families and prospective residents. Novel solutions to address the problem of infectious outbreaks in LTC facilities are ethically necessary not just for the well being of residents, but also to restore public trust and satisfy the high likelihood of increased oversight. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers one of the best solutions to reduce the threat that infectious diseases pose to LTC facilities and their residents.
AI has numerous applications in public health and medicine including earlier disease detection, more precise diagnosis, and personalized treatments. The AI system algorithms adapt as new information is received, essentially “learning” through a combination of inputs and outputs. AI is currently being used by hospitals for earlier and more precise identification of COVID-19 patients.
In order to understand how AI can be effective against infectious diseases in nursing homes, one must look at the factors that make nursing home residents particularly vulnerable. These can be divided into resident factors, employee factors, and operational factors. LTC facility residents are often older, have more chronic medical problems, and live in close proximity to each other. These factors make residents more vulnerable to infections and the severity of the infection greater. LTC facility staff can introduce infectious agents to residents from the community as well as within the facility, from an infected to a noninfected resident. As is the case with COVID-19, transmission can occur from an infected resident before the resident shows symptoms. Finally, delays in identifying, isolating and medically managing potentially infectious residents can lead to the spread of infection, even before the resident is showing signs and symptoms. Besides staff, visitors such as family members, volunteers and clergy can unwittingly introduce infections from the community into the nursing home.
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Source: McKnight’s Long-Term Care