There are now more than 4 million confirmed (May 8, 2020) cases of COVID-19, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). More than a million of these cases are in the United States. As the incidence of COVID-19 infections rises, healthcare stakeholders call for new tools and treatments to monitor outbreaks, detect and diagnose new cases, reduce infection rates, stop the flow of accurate or even dangerous information, and even help people stay at home.
Tech has always answered the call to help the medical community track, prevent, and treat viruses. During the severe 2018 flu season, for example, Kinsa Smart Thermometers and Kinsa smartphone applications helped healthcare professionals track national illness spikes by recording and storing temperature measurements and monitoring fever patterns in real-time across the country. Research by the Scripps Research Translational Institute determined that certain information, such as resting heart rate and sleep duration, collected by Fitbit wearable devices could help scientists create timely and accurate models of influenza trends sweeping across the nation.
Advancing technology is again stepping up to help health organizations, companies, and individuals tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
Digital contact tracing
Emerging technologies can help healthcare professionals with communication, medical monitoring, and new strategies for contact tracing.
Contract tracing helps healthcare professionals identify and warn people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease. While time is of the essence when it comes to tracing infectious diseases, digital contact tracing is slow and tedious work. Protecting patient privacy also slows down the contact tracing process.
Digital contact tracing uses location data and other advanced technology to identify individuals in the community potentially exposed to coronavirus. Digital contact tracing also uses flexible data management systems that can facilitate real-time electronic transmission of case data and laboratory test results to speed public health action. Digital case management tools improve the overall efficiency of the contact tracing process by automating specific procedures. Data sharing agreements and robust security ensure safe, timely, and accurate data collection and sharing.
Online shopping, robot deliveries, and contactless payments
Stay-at-home orders and concerns over infection have sparked a boom in online shopping in the United States. In a survey by Statistica, 30 percent of respondents said they had deliberately ordered online from grocery stores and restaurant delivery/takeaway because of the pandemic; 20 percent or more said they ordered hygiene products, household products, and health products online. Because in-person delivery is not virus-proof, many companies are now offering robot deliveries. Digital payments in the form of cards and e-wallets make purchases and receiving funds easier and safer.
Improving the flow of accurate information
Inaccurate information began flooding the internet as the pandemic emerged. Misinformation about vaccines, cures, spread almost as quickly as the virus itself.
To address the spread of misinformation, Facebook, Amazon, and Google collaborated with the World Health Organization, according to a February 2020 CNBC report. The primary topic of discussion was how the tech giants could combat fake news about COVID-19 spreading across the internet. The group also talked about disaster preparedness and ways to disseminate accurate information to consumers.
Virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIP), virtual meetings, cloud technology, and work collaboration tools allow employees to work from home. Information security, privacy, and timely tech support are essential for a remote workforce.
The COVID-19 outbreak has changed everyday life for most people. Fortunately, advances in technology help people continue to live and work as we win the war on coronavirus.