Digital Tool Predicts Which COVID-19 Patient Needs Care Now

Kaiser’s COVAS score evaluates comorbidities, obesity, vital signs, age, and gender
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California (Coronavirus Today)

A new study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reports on an assessment tool developed by Kaiser Permanente researchers and physicians that helps ensure patients get the right care, when they need it, by accurately predicting the probability that patients with COVID-19 symptoms will experience severe disease.

The Kaiser assessment tool, called the COVAS score because it looks at comorbidities, obesity, vital signs, age, and sex, has already been incorporated into the electronic health record system throughout Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, where it guides clinical decisions in emergency departments and urgent care centers.

In this study published on November 4, 2020, the COVAS score accurately predicted the probability of a COVID-19 patient’s need for critical respiratory care within 7-days.

“As the pandemic surges again across the country and hospitalizations are increasing, front-line physicians often must make quick decisions to hospitalize or discharge patients with COVID-19 symptoms,” said Adam Sharp, MD, an emergency medicine physician who also is a researcher for the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, in a press release. 

“We created a risk assessment that looks at many different patient variables that might predict a critical poor outcome — without any lab or diagnostic testing.”

Researchers conducted a retrospective study of 26,600 emergency department visits by adults for symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 at 15 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California between March 1, 2020, to April 30, 2020, a period of time when substantial community spread of COVID-19 was prevalent in the region but immediate COVID-19 test results were not.

The results inform front-line health professionals and health systems about which patients with COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and fatigue, are at greatest risk of death or respiratory decompensation that would require ventilation or high-flow oxygen.

Previous studies have focused on hospitalized patients, with little information about those treated outside of the inpatient setting. This work examines emergency department patients with suspected COVID-19 and provides helpful information to front-line physicians to inform care decisions, particularly during surges when hospital capacity can be limited.

“I have used this tool successfully with my own patients in the emergency department and it helps provide necessary information to make informed decisions with patients,” Dr. Sharp added. 

“It can help to reassure low-risk patients, and alternatively can encourage those at high risk to receive hospital-based care that may speed their recovery.” 

The Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation conducts high-quality, innovative research into disease etiology, prevention, treatment, and care delivery. Investigators conduct epidemiologic research, health services research, biostatistics research, and behavioral research as well as clinical trials. 

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