Reports From the Field

COVID-19 Screening and Testing Among Patients With Neurologic Dysfunction: The Neuro-COVID-19 Time-out Process and Checklist



From the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Department of Neurology, Division of Neuroscience Intensive Care, Jackson, MS.


Objective: To test a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) screening tool to identify patients who qualify for testing among patients with neurologic dysfunction who are unable to answer the usual screening questions, which could help to prevent unprotected exposure of patients and health care workers to COVID-19.

Methods: The Neuro-COVID-19 Time-out Process and Checklist (NCOT-PC) was implemented at our institution for 1 week as a quality improvement project to improve the pathway for COVID-19 screening and testing among patients with neurologic dysfunction.

Results: A total of 14 new patients were admitted into the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) service during the pilot period. The NCOT-PC was utilized on 9 (64%) patients with neurologic dysfunction; 7 of these patients were found to have a likelihood of requiring testing based on the NCOT-PC and were subsequently screened for COVID-19 testing by contacting the institution’s COVID-19 testing hotline (Med-Com). All these patients were subsequently transitioned into person-under-investigation status based on the determination from Med-Com. The NSICU staff involved were able to utilize NCOT-PC without issues. The NCOT-PC was immediately adopted into the NSICU process.

Conclusion: Use of the NCOT-PC tool was found to be feasible and improved the screening methodology of patients with neurologic dysfunction.

Keywords: coronavirus; health care planning; quality improvement; patient safety; medical decision-making; neuroscience intensive care unit.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has altered various standard emergent care pathways. Current recommendations regarding COVID-19 screening for testing involve asking patients about their symptoms, including fever, cough, chest pain, and dyspnea.1 This standard screening method poses a problem when caring for patients with neurologic dysfunction. COVID-19 patients may pre-sent with conditions that affect their ability to answer questions, such as stroke, encephalitis, neuromuscular disorders, or headache, and that may preclude the use of standard screening for testing.2 Patients with acute neurologic dysfunction who cannot undergo standard screening may leave the emergency department (ED) and transition into the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) or any intensive care unit (ICU) without a reliable COVID-19 screening test.


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