Western Sydney team develops revolutionary PPE tool to protect hospital staff

The project was led by WSLHD COVID-19 Clinical Expert Advisory Group chair A/Prof Nicole Phillips, WSLHD Infection Prevention and Disease Control clinical chair Prof Ramon Shaban and ophthalmologist Dr Andrew Kam.

Hospital workers can be assured they have the right amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) thanks to a new tool developed by staff of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

Called ‘PPE Predict’, the program not only keeps track of how much equipment is in stock but also predicts how quickly it will be used based on the type of patients in the hospital, also known as the ‘burn rate’.

It will allow individual wards to keep track of how much PPE they need for each staff member per patient, and help the District monitor supply and demand.

Professor Ramon Shaban, Associate Professor Nicole Phillips and Dr Andrew Kam led the project in incredible time, producing the program within just three weeks.

“This project is all about keeping healthcare workers safe and enabling them to provide the most appropriate care,” A/Prof Phillips said.

Dr Kam was a “wizard” at producing the model, according to Prof Shaban.

Prof Shaban, who is WSLHD Infection Prevention and Disease Control Clinical Chair, said that knowing the PPE burn rate in an outbreak is vital for successful disease control.

“With necessity being the mother of invention, the pace of the COVID-19 outbreak globally was such that we needed to know this,” Prof Shaban said.

“At a meeting of the District’s COVID-19 Clinical Expert Advisory Group, I proposed to Nicole as the Acting Chair that we create such a tool to map supply and demand, and predict how much more we would need in situations such as a local cluster of COVID-19 cases.”

The project quickly drew together a multidisciplinary team including Dr Kam, a doctor at Westmead Hospital’s Eye Clinic.

Dr Kam joined the hospital this year after previously leading a service improvement project at Royal North Shore Hospital and then taking a year off medicine to work in healthcare management consulting.

Prof Shaban and A/Prof Phillips credit Dr Kam with much of the success of the project.

“Andrew is enormously talented, and he worked tirelessly on the tool and the many iterations of it as we revised it. He led much of the work on the ground with the help of dental staff to collect the information we needed about current PPE practices,” Prof Shaban said.

“I have a passion for service improvement and COVID-19 presented an opportunity to put my experience into practice,” Dr Kam said.

The program has a variety of applications, including:

  • Guiding use of PPE by patient type, depending on the level of standard and transmission-based precaution required using evidence-based guidelines
  • Real-time management of PPE supply for wards to ensure they have the right amount of equipment
  • Predicting future needs for PPE based on clinical activity, and the ability to align the supply chain to those needs with new deliveries of stock
  • Showcasing best practice in wards and areas that use PPE appropriately
  • Flagging underuse or overuse of types of PPE

The team will now present the project to NSW Health Clinical Excellence Commission, with the hope that the program could be developed into a tool available across the entire health system.