Research by the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows using “remote buddies” may help preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and provide reliable access to monitoring.

Study lead and consultant anaesthetist Professor Reny Segal
Study lead and consultant anaesthetist Professor Reny Segal

The process allows more staff to have access to assistance while donning and doffing PPE in the case that on-site assistance is not available.

Study lead and RMH consultant anaesthetist, Professor Reny Segal designed 30 procedural scenarios (15 donning, 15 doffing) that included random errors in some procedural steps.

Four buddies (two onsite, two remote), unaware of the number and type of errors in each scenario, concurrently viewed and assessed each step.

The remote buddies viewed the procedures via videoconferencing on their computers. The camera of the transmitting laptop computer was positioned so that the entire body of the person donning or doffing PPE could be seen.

Procedures were live-streamed to the remote buddies via the hospital Wi-Fi network. The buddies were not permitted to communicate with each other or with the person donning or doffing PPE.

The results were positive – both onsite and remote buddies correctly identified correct procedures.

“Having a trained observer monitor PPE compliance is important for health care safety,” Prof Segal said.

“The high level of accuracy and the agreement between onsite and remote buddies were encouraging.”

“Apart from identifying errors, remote buddies could also provide step-by-step instruction in donning and doffing procedures, which could improve compliance and minimise contamination.”

In order for the remote buddy system to be effective practical considerations need to be given to ensuring a reliable hospital network and internet connection, to avoid any disruption.

“As the remote buddy is unable to physically intervene when they identify an error, clear verbal communication is important.”

The hope is that using remote PPE buddies may help to preserve PPE supplies and ensure reliable access to monitoring in the event additional staff aren’t available at the time.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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