COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - One of the largest health care providers in the Chattahoochee Valley, Piedmont Columbus, is using new measures to help patients in the safest way possible during this pandemic.
Meanwhile, about two hours up the road, Piedmont Healthcare is working on two COVID-19 related trials in Atlanta.
All Piedmont primary care offices in Columbus are keeping their waiting rooms empty by using “Mobile Waiting Rooms.” They set up an outside screening triage area. The patient will park and a nurse will greet them. The nurse will then ask them screening questions and take their temperature. If a patient is not already wearing a mask, the nurse will give them one. The patient is taken directly to the exam room and is discharged directly from the exam room.
Dr. Mark Sexton with Piedmont Physicians at Green Island is encouraging patients to not ignore their medical problems because they’re worried about COVID-19.
“They shouldn’t be afraid to come in and one of the reasons we’re trying to get this message across is even though we’ve got this terrible pandemic going on, we can’t ignore ongoing medical problems that our patients have," Sexton said.
Sexton said if someone doesn’t come in during the pandemic, they might not be seen again for another three to six months, causing them to really get behind on their preventative care.
In Atlanta, Piedmont Healthcare is enrolling hospitalized patients in severe stages of COVID-19 to test the drug Gimsilumab. Dr. Amy Case, Piedmont’s Medical Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Research, said this targets patients in the inflammatory phase of COVID-19, which is a later stage that primarily impacts the lungs.
Case said this can sometimes impact other parts of the body including kidneys and the brain. According to Case, the patients they are enrolling in this trial require a fair-bit of oxygen or are on a ventilator.
“This drug would potentially decrease that inflammation in the body and hopefully prevent some of the additional damage that can happen and maybe make those patients able to recover a bit better. But that’s why it’s being studied," Case said.
Case said they’ll be starting another study looking at the effectiveness of “proning," or repositioning, based on other studies done on Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
“Essentially flipping the patient over from their back to their belly can improve their oxygenation and in studies, it’s been shown to improve survival because it can help us to oxygenate them better in combination with a mechanical ventilator,” Case explained.
This is a non-drug intervention that Case said they’ll start opening enrollment for soon.
“What’s not known is whether positional changes in the earlier patients with COVID-19 can help prevent some of that progression and maybe improve those outcomes in those early patients,” Case said.
While doctors in Atlanta are working to learn more about COVID-19, doctors like Sexton continue to put their safety on the line to make sure other medical needs of their patients are being treated.
“I think my biggest fear is taking it home. I have a young daughter who is eight months pregnant and has a three-year-old daughter living with us while my son-in-law is deployed. So, it’s hard going home worrying that am I going to bring something home to them," Sexton said.
Sexton said they are still continuing to do some telemedicine appointments as well.