Thermal Imaging: Hands-off COVID-19 Visitor Screening

As people await vaccines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, rural healthcare facilities across the United States are facing up to the challenges. Treating infected patients and limiting the spread of the virus are major priorities.

Screening visitors for virus symptoms is a vital but complex issue: staffing and budgets are tightly constrained, and virus testing is expensive and invasive. Additionally, privacy and security are significant concerns. However, the potential cost of not screening people can be immense.

One innovating rural healthcare provider is taking the initiative in protecting its community. Since 1922, Wayne HealthCare Greenville, OH (about 30 miles northwest of Dayton) has been the trusted provider for all medical care by Darke County’s 50,000 residents.

Thermal Imaging: Hands-off COVID-19 Visitor Screening

Image Credit: Wayne HealthCare

Now, since breaking ground in May 2019, a major expansion project will add 85,000 square feet to its main campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit partway through the expansion project, with Wayne HealthCare announcing new restrictions on visitors back in March 2020. This included screening questions for visitors and prohibiting entry for anyone with flu-like symptoms.

Shelton Monger, CIO and VP of Information Services for Wayne HealthCare, saw an opportunity for automation, stating, “We’ve never been afraid to use state-of-the-art technology when solving challenges.”

Out of a prior crisis, a viable solution

In 2003, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak presented a public health crisis. Similar to COVID-19, an airborne coronavirus causes SARS: Increased body temperature or fever, over 38°C, is an early symptom along with fatigue, headache, and muscle pain.

Preventing the spread of SARS across Asia became a leading public health initiative. Isolation, masking, and contact tracing were the first of the critical key responses. Officials identified that the spread of SARS was being accelerated by air travel. Therefore, they sought rapid screening processes that could scan crowds of travelers quickly and non-invasively.

As imager costs have dropped, infrared thermography has made its way from military to commercial use, begging the question, could thermal imaging perform rapid screening for elevated skin surface temperature?

People efficiently radiate infrared energy, even though most clothing or masks. Thermal imaging equipment is portable, non-invasive, and requires no consumables. Real-time data allows for the immediate rerouting of people with symptoms for additional checks.

Yet, there are practical limitations, including elevated skin temperatures in those who have been exercising or those exposed to heat or sunlight if they haven’t had a chance to fully cool down.

Stimulants, including caffeine and nicotine, can also increase skin surface temperature and to acquire accurate thermal measurements, several frames of data are often necessary. Therefore, numerous subjects moving in the same frame can cause some issues.

Even with 2003 technology, thermal imaging proved to be an effective tool for the rapid screening of SARS. The worst-case scenario is that it may flag someone for additional individual screening who is later found to be fever-free.

While two decades have passed since the first major outbreak of SARS, the technology continues to progress. Enhanced thermal imaging is good for the rapid screening of COVID-19 today.

Efficient COVID-19 screening at Wayne HealthCare

“Hands-on forms or tablets for every visitor walking through our doors weren’t a great option,” Monger says. Filing paper COVID-19 questionnaires would overwhelm receptionists while using tablets meant sanitizing between each visitor.

As important as it is, we couldn’t afford more people to handle screening. Thermal imaging lets visitors pass a hands-off screening station without stopping. The receptionist gets an alert if a high temperature is detected.”

Shelton Monger, CIO and VP of Information Services, Wayne HealthCare

Therefore, a receptionist can take the visitors to one side for a thermometer check if necessary.

Thermal Imaging: Hands-off COVID-19 Visitor Screening

Image Credit: Advantech

In April 2020, Monger contacted Tim Mitchell Advantech’s District Sales Manager. Monger was aware of Advantech’s line of industrial tablets, and he wanted more information regarding Advantech’s Visitor Thermal Screening solution: “It’s a thermal imaging appliance with preloaded software,” says Mitchell.

There’s a visible plus infrared camera that records a visitor snapshot. A receptionist sees results on their dashboard before the visitor reaches the desk.”

Tim Mitchell, District Sales Manager, Advantech

Facial recognition can split several people with good accuracy as they simultaneously pass a station.

Each Visitor Thermal Screening station is hosted by a fanless Advantech UBX-310D embedded system running Windows 10; these communicate with the Wayne HealthCare IT network. Central management software displays IT teams trend analysis and event cross comparison for all stations.

Local hosting means a big plus for security and privacy as there is no data sent to the cloud. Cameras are available in either turret or bullet styles, with a tripod mounting adapter - an optional black body temperature reference boosts the accuracy.

We started with one prototype of our scanner setup in May 2020, and it worked efficiently right away. People walk up to the receptionist’s desk expecting a manual scan or questions. When they hear they’ve already been scanned and passed, they’re impressed.”

Shelton Monger, CIO and VP of Information Services, Wayne HealthCare

Even if visitors are wearing hats, sunglasses, and/or COVID masks the scans train their accuracy.

Installing scan stations is straightforward, with standard Gigabit Ethernet or optional Wi-Fi connectivity: “We’re all in,” Monger says. He anticipates eventually introducing 15 stations at the main hospital campus in Greenville and outpatient facilities in nearby Versailles and Union City.

Healthcare technology evolving with a changing world

Public health measures against COVID-19 have been compared to layers of Swiss cheese. The virus may penetrate the holes of a single layer, but overlapping layers of protection impede the flow of the virus.

Hands-off rapid screening efficiently adds an additional layer of protection for Wayne HealthCare. Usually, the public doesn’t directly see the technology in action, but in this case it’s visible yet discreet from the moment they walk in.

When it comes to overcoming challenging issues Advantech’s commitment to intelligent healthcare has produced a number of solutions. The Visitor Thermal Screening solution spawned from an idea that first arose almost two decades ago.

Advantech predicted that similar needs would once again arise – and they have. Enhanced thermal imagers and more compact, powerful computing make today’s solution ready to be deployed almost anywhere. It’s cost-effective and easily integrates into healthcare campus networks.

Healthcare teams can rely on Advantech for dependable, cutting-edge technology that is continually evolving in an ever-changing world.

Advantech sales teams are on-hand for consultation with the ability to cater to specific needs and discover the best solutions to the most difficult challenges. Automation frees people to do what they do best: offer compassionate attention and quality care.

About Advantech

With decades of proven experience and trusted by 23 of the top 30 medical device manufacturers, Advantech is a leading player in the global healthcare market. Advantech partners with leading medical equipment manufacturers and system integrators to transform healthcare and elevate patient-centered care. Advantech’s medical device safety certifications and FDA registration, paired with high-performance and customizable products, meets the healthcare industry’s demands for both turnkey solutions and comprehensive design and manufacturing services.

Global headquarters located in Taipei, Taiwan, North American headquarters in Irvine, California and design center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Advantech is a global market-leader in industrial PCs and medical grade PCs. Offering a high degree of customization to meet unique customer requirements with in-house design and manufacturing, along with the deliberate selection of component, processor, and chipset for product designs, Advantech products are designed and manufactured with the primary intent of longevity and availability.

Advantech has been ISO 13485 certified for medical devices since 2003; its North American Service Center located in Milpitas, CA is also a FDA Registered facility. Advantech’s medical product portfolio includes medical-grade PCs, medical displays, medical tablets, mobile workstation and telehealth carts and healthcare information terminals. Medically certified for patient safety (60601), fanless and sealed for infection control, Advantech’s purpose built products specific for healthcare use cases are configurable and customizable, built for both acute care and non-acute care healthcare facilities.


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Last updated: May 24, 2021 at 4:02 AM

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