By Kate Raphael, HGHI | March 12, 2020

Here is a truth about the human brain: in crisis, we get creative. So, like other major crises before, the coronavirus pandemic is driving innovative ideas and new solutions for how to deal with the risk of infection, testing shortages, and other current challenges.

Take this example, from Rwanda:

As we all know, hand washing is key in an outbreak, so why not take washing stations to where the people are? Or, take this practical move by the University of Washington medical school leadership: The country urgently needs more testing for SARS-CoV-2 infections, the university’s lab has an approved test, but the staff can’t process the samples fast enough… Time to realize that graduate students are a terrific resource!

Another innovation that is seeing a boost right now: Telemedicine. Instead of visiting a doctor’s office, patients can talk to their doctor from home. And not just that: As concerns over the capacity of health care systems mount, the health of frontline clinicians is a top priority. Telemedicine carts are a practical solution — they are rolled into a patient’s hospital room and the doctor can do a check in without having to be in the room. This goes beyond a conversation via video chat; there is even an electronic stethoscope.

Telemedicine resources designed for COVID-19 can also help direct people to the most appropriate site of care and chatbots can screen people’s symptoms and suggest next steps. Spectrum Health, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and covering 15 hospitals and 11 urgent care centers, for example, is offering free virtual screenings for COVID-19 for anyone experiencing symptoms. These pre-screening efforts reduce the load on the health care system and minimize exposure in waiting rooms and transportation, all while protecting frontline clinicians.

It’s these types of innovative, proactive measures that have the potential to flatten the curve.

Have you seen other creative ways in which people are responding to and making do during this pandemic? Send us your examples, please, at kraphael@hsph.harvard.edu