The last decade has seen the rapid growth and development of many digital tools. Now they can be used to remediate the COVID-19 pandemic.
If not for the Corona virus, or COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 would have been the start of an exciting new decade in medicine and science, in which new digital technologies make tackling major public health problems and diseases easier than ever. Artificial intelligence (AI) using deep learning, big-data analytics, Blockchain technology and next-generation telecommunication networks like 5G herald a huge development and maturation of digital technologies that have been being developed for years.
AI and deep learning systems can be used to understand healthcare trends, model risks and predict outcomes. Blockchain technology, with a back-linked database, cryptographic protocols and a network of distributed computers, allows data to be copied in multiple physical locations. Data is then secure but traceable.
However, these technologies can still be used in the wake of a global health crisis. Time has shown the virus to be highly contagious, with a mortality rate of around 2%. Many countries have relied on classic infection-control and public-health measures to contain COVID-19, like those used in the SARS and MERs epidemics in the 2000s. These include quarantine measures and contact tracing. In addition to these traditional measures (or perhaps in lieu of them), governments around the globe should be considering using new digital technologies to augment the virus. These fall into two categories: monitoring, detecting and preventing COVID-19, and mitigating the impact to healthcare systems.
Monitoring, surveillance, detection and prevention of COVID-19
The internet has already provided a platform that allows public-health agencies around the world to access data related to the pandemic. ‘Worldometer’ provides a real-time update on recorded cases of COVID-19 and their conditions. The John Hopkin’s University CSSE has developed a real time tracking map for cases of COVID-19 around the world, synthesising data from the US, EU and WHO.
This data provides opportunities to model the virus’ impact and to guide individual countries with how to tackle the outbreak. The WHO has, for example, assessed the preparedness and vulnerability of African nations in battling COVID-19.
Digital technology can also raise public health awareness in communities. In Singapore, the government partnered with WhatsApp to disseminate information about COVID-19 and government decisions. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google have all been used by the WHO and healthcare agencies to provide information and updates.
Innovation in Healthcare Systems
The pandemic has shown a lack of innovation in health care systems – instead of innovating, they have simply shut shown other health services to focus on COVID-19. This has included closing clinics and postponing medical appointments and surgeries. Instead, healthcare systems could use digital technology to create virtual clinics, to use chat bots to recognise early symptoms and educate people on prevention measures.
Securing Medical Supply Chains
Blockchain can be used with pharmacies to deliver patients medication to their doorsteps – blockchain technology allows accurate tracking of medications, right to patient’s doors.
AI to identify, track and forecast outbreaks
AI can enhance detection and diagnosis of COVID-19. As governments around the world are often opting not to test people suspected of having the virus, whether due to the cost of tests or due to the unavailability of tests, AI algorithms can be used as a screening tool to better decide who to test. This would involve looking at past travel to countries hard hit by the epidemic, or relationships with confirmed cases.
Finally, AI can be used in intensive care to help physicians decide who is the most at risk from the virus once they have contracted it.
AI to identify non-compliance or infected individuals
Facial recognition companies have developed thermal imaging in China to identify people with abnormally high temperatures, and screening at airports is set to become a trend in the future. Surveillance measures are also in place around the world to identify people breaking the quarantine and leaving their houses – an increase in surveillance technology can ensure populations stay indoors and prevent the spread of the virus.
Beatrix is a marketing specialist at Professional College Paper Writers and Essayroo. She’s helping clients with building up their personal and professional brands in a fast-changing market at State Of Writing.