COVID-19 Update: New Rapid Diagnostic Test App for CHWs

Post authored by Helen Olsen, Impact Manager; Alix Emden, Operations Lead; Josh Nesbit, Board Member, and Kenn Sippell, Director of App Services. 

Health workers around the world are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 at great personal risk. A deadly combination of extreme working conditions, stress, fatigue and prolonged exposure to the virus is leaving them highly vulnerable to infection, and experience has shown us that pandemics disproportionately affect health workers. A recent WHO report found that health workers are between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than people in the general population. In Lombardy, Italy, the infection rate for health workers is twelve times higher than for the general population.

However, these are preventable infections. In the case of COVID-19, we know that protection, prevention and testing are key to early detection and containment of the pandemic. For community health workers, this means access to quality personal protective equipment (PPEs) as they work tirelessly to serve and care for their communities and interrupt the pandemic while maintaining routine service delivery. It also means frequent self-testing for CHWs in order to maintain a healthy workforce that can ably fight the pandemic. 

We also know that the window of time in which the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed or prevented “can only be achieved with widespread testing”. CHWs are well-positioned to provide much-needed support for testing by bringing rapid diagnostic tests directly to the patient’s doorstep to protect those who are infected as well as their communities.

Inspired by the conversations happening across our community, our team engaged in a sprint to build a prototype COVID RDT App for Community Health Workers (CHWs) using the Community Health Toolkit. We shared this prototype with our partners, and now we want to share it with you as well. We believe that a digital tool to support symptom screening and rapid diagnostic testing will enable CHWs to test themselves to ensure they are virus-free and able to serve their communities. It will also support CHWs to screen, identify infections and provide care to community members impacted by COVID-19, as well as engage in contact tracing and other containment measures in the early phases of the epidemic. 

Our prototype is an open-source app, built using the Community Health Toolkit based on the draft test procedures laid out in PIH’s response plan. It is meant to support CHWs administering the RDT for themselves or patients in the community. The current version utilizes the BioMedonics antibody (IgM/IgG) test but can be adapted to RT-PCR or Antigen (Ag) RDTs. Check out the documentation and the source code to learn more.  

Our hope is that a tool like this could:

  • Help health workers stay safe via self-testing
  • Improve the quality of testing and care within the community
  • Support updated testing and triage protocols as the context changes
  • Improve patient follow-up via integrations with proactive messaging
  • Support patient education on the symptoms of COVID
  • Be reused and adapted as needed, integrated into existing apps and platforms

We continue to be inspired by the level of commitment we are seeing within our community of practice and the urgency of support for CHWs as they provide frontline support to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We will continue posting regular updates on this blog. To get in touch with our team, reach out on the CHT Forum.

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