Briefing

The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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Attention is beginning to shift to future viral threats—including SARS-CoV-2—and how we can prevent them.

In a Nature survey of 119 immunologists, infectious disease researchers, and virologists from 23 countries, almost 90% think that SARS-CoV-2 might continue to circulate for years. At risk are regions with poor vaccine distribution or uptake and where viral mutations have evaded natural or vaccine immunity, as well as among those who have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated against the current coronavirus but who experience waning immunity.

With an eye on the future, the current US administration’s COVID-19 strategy includes a plan to support a National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics modeled on proposed improvements to “outbreak science.” The goal is to centralize prediction of viral threats the way the National Weather Service centralizes prediction of weather threats. Other emerging concepts include the creation of a global serologic surveillance system using blood samples collected during other routine lab tests and the use of metagenomics to spot novel pathogens early enough to perhaps prevent a future pandemic.

Here and now, people are still coping with the toll of this pandemic. Health care workers’ own words reflect the trauma and exhaustion that they are facing (see Topics to Watch for some systems changes that might help them manage) while COVID-19 is causing a global spike in depression and anxiety throughout society.

Emotional PPE Project to Facilitate Healthcare Worker Access to Mental Health Services

At a Glance

  • The Emotional PPE Project is a nonprofit organization that seeks to connect health care workers whose mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic with free licensed mental health professionals for services.
  • Mental health professionals sign up on the project’s website to volunteer their services and are listed in a database on the website that is searchable by state. 
  • Health care workers connect with a mental health professional, and sessions are conducted via telehealth and under the liability and malpractice insurance already held by the provider.
  • Providers available through the project include clinical psychologists, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers.

Recharge Rooms to Reduce Stress in Frontline Health Care Workers

At a Glance

  • Recharge rooms are spaces designed for rest and rejuvenation for frontline health care workers impacted by attention fatigue, burnout, and moral injury from the pandemic.
  • Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine, in collaboration with Studio Elsewhere, created recharge rooms to provide a multisensory experience. The rooms are outfitted with artificial plants, relaxing furniture, music, nature sounds and scenes projected on a wall, and calming scents diffused into the air.
  • Health care workers who spent a single 15-minute stay in a recharge room reported a 60% decline in stress levels, and the rooms were highly regarded via net promoter score.
  • Studio Elsewhere is continuing to develop recharge rooms, and some hospitals are creating their own versions (eg, Baptist Health Hardin).

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected] or
by mail to: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20036.

Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders. The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.


Posted: February 24, 2021

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