Physicians Fighting Covid-19 Use Social Media “to Share Improvised Solutions”

(p. A9) In mid-March [2020], as U.S. hospitals scrambled for ventilators to treat a surge of coronavirus cases, a Vermont pulmonologist proposed a different treatment on a blog popular with emergency-medicine doctors.

Joshua Farkas observed in the post on the EMCrit blog that many Covid-19 patients seemed to benefit from less-invasive alternatives to help their breathing, including pressure therapy used to treat sleep apnea—sometimes referred to as CPAP, for continuous positive airway pressure.

. . .

The post helped galvanize an emerging theory about the treatment of Covid-19 patients, which in recent weeks has taken hold in U.S. hospitals. In New York City, where ventilators are in perilously short supply, doctors say they have since embraced CPAP and other treatments to improve breathing in Covid-19 patients.

The shift is one example of how health-care workers are writing the playbook for treating coronavirus patients on the fly, knowing they can’t wait for peer-reviewed articles or studies in established medical journals. Instead they are tapping into social media, podcasts, inside-baseball medical blogs and text-message groups to share improvised solutions to supply shortages and patient care, forcing hospitals to quickly re-evaluate their practices.

“This has been a rapidly evolving process,” said Dr. Farkas, who has treated Covid-19 patients in the intensive-care unit at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “As we struggle with how to treat a disease that so recently was totally unknown, this rapid exchange and updating of information is crucial.”

. . .

Last week, Michelle Romeo, a chief emergency-medicine resident at NYU Langone and Bellevue hospital in Manhattan, tweeted photos of a jury-rigged breathing device involving a mask used for BiPAP—an airway pressure therapy similar to CPAP.

At Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, pulmonologists worked with the hospital’s sleep lab to figure out a way to use BiPAP machines like a ventilator. The result was posted on Reddit, and got “all kinds of different responses,” said Valerie Burgos-Kneeland, a registered nurse in the hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit. “It’s kind of been an opportunity for people to get creative.”

For the full story, see:

Rebecca Davis O’Brien. “Doctors Improvise, Share Treatments.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 10, 2020): A9.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 9, 2020, and has the title “Doctors Are Improvising Coronavirus Treatments, Then Quickly Sharing Them.”)

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