Former federal health department secretary Jane Halton, who served on the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, said the proper use of PPE was “absolutely fundamental” to preserving the health workforce and limiting the spread of infection.
“Anything that can be done to assist doctors and nurses and other people that need to use PPE to make sure that their PPE practice is absolutely the best it can be, that’s got to be a good thing,” Ms Halton said.
Dr Michael Bonning, Australian Medical Association NSW council chair, said the Omicron strain was proving to be more infectious than previous variants and doctors needed to be extra vigilant about PPE procedures.
“Having a system in place that takes out human error is a great solution and could reduce the number of healthcare workers furloughed as a result of exposure,” he said.
The app is already in use at Macquarie University hospital, where it is being used to train medical students and nursing staff. But the team is eager to roll it out more widely and in discussions with three other hospitals, two educational groups and an aged care facility. While the app is currently calibrated to a medical or aged care environment, Professor Wilson said there was potential for it to be applied across a range of industries which used PPE, such as food preparation and commercial settings.
The app was developed, trialled and validated over the past 18 months at Macquarie University, with the PPE “steps” informed by guidelines that were developed by Johns Hopkins University in response to the Ebola pandemic and in line with NSW Health’s Clinical Excellence Commission standards. It also features privacy safeguards such as “scrubbing” facial features and other identifying details of the user before recording the data.
Associate Professor Veronica Preda, who oversaw the trials of the app with final year student doctors Anand Jayapadman and Alexandra Zacharakis, said there were no standardised protocols for PPE procedure across hospitals, aged care or disability facilities, with places often relying on a “buddy” system to check for errors. The reality in a busy hospital, she said, was that nurses often did not have the time to perform this role.
“It’s also about how much training have they had? How confident are they? And is this the best use of their skill set when we’ve already got a fatigued workforce that is task-saturated,” she said.