Roundup: Tech’s role in tracking, testing, treating COVID-19
The digital health communities release a slew of new tools aiming to monitor the spread of the disease and facilitate better treatment. And it sounds as if there’s still more to come, as just this morning CNBC reported that tech giants Facebook, Amazon and Google were sitting down with the World Health Organization to talk about their role in combating the spread of disease, as well as misinformation.
With the incidence of new COVID-19 cases growing by the day, healthcare stakeholders are continuing to search for tools and medications to help stem the tide. In terms of COVID-19, we are seeing another rise in digital epidemiology tools, chatbot helpers, EHR guidance tools and rapid-response test kits.
Bahrain launches electronic bracelets to keep track of active COVID-19 cases
The Kingdom of Bahrain is keeping track of its active cases of COVID-19 via electronic bracelets. Launched earlier this week, the wristbands – which are compatible with the country’s coronavirus contact tracing app, called “Be Aware” – have been designed to alert a governmental monitoring station of any suspicious activity. Affected individuals wearing the electronic bracelet must be connected to the app at all times via Bluetooth, with GPS enabled to track movement, ensuring that they do not leave their location. That self-isolating will be asked to set their location, most likely their place of residence, and made to remain in that location until cleared.
Bahrain’s bracelets and app “complement the government’s effort in quickly tracing” new cases of COVID-19, as well as keeping track of active cases and their close contacts.
Coronavirus Has Exposed the UK Dramatically
In 2019, the U.K. Consumer Digital Index found that 10% of people in the U.K. — more than five million people — had zero basic digital skills and a further 2% — more than one million adults — had just basic abilities. Overall, this research shows that nearly 12 million people do not have the essential digital skills needed for life in the U.K.
In the same year, the U.K. Office for National Statistics reported that 7% of homes did not have an internet connection. Today, with schools closed to all except the children of key workers — for example, nurses and delivery drivers — children in these homes are offline. That means they cannot access online education resources or teacher emails with homework.
Additionally, social distancing has slashed demand for some service providers, such as hairdressers and restaurant staff. The resulting drop in income for these groups will force more families to rely on services like food banks, which are often discovered on the internet.
This has led to the next stage of our work, which forms part of the U.K. government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport response to COVID-19. Through this collaboration, we have created Devices Dot Now, an initiative that aims to stock frontline community organizations with internet-ready devices for distributing to those most in need of them. Devices supplied by the service are preloaded with relevant apps, such as the NHS app and video-calling functions, to make them as easy-to-use as possible after basic training over the phone.
Researchers struggle with COVID-19 voice detection apps
In the UK, the BBC reported that a project by Cambridge University tries to keep volunteers anonymous, which is limiting its work. An independent effort by the US-based Carnegie Mellon University asks users to register themselves but has had to go offline.
Both teams say the software does not replace the need for other medical tests, which would be used to produce a more accurate diagnosis. Cambridge University launched its project on Tuesday where members of the public are invited to breathe and cough into a computer’s microphone. They are asked details about their age, gender, approximate location, and whether they have tested positive for the coronavirus.
People using the app are asked to read the following phrase three times: “I hope my data can help to manage the virus pandemic.” The team behind the app says that it is not yet available on smartphones because Google and Apple have yet to accept it because of tougher rules on COVID-19 related apps. Getting the app validated for a smartphone is key because it would allow for follow-up tests, something that is difficult on a web app without compromising confidentiality, the BBC reported.
AIA Thailand partners with True Digital Group and Samitivej to launch Virtual COVID-19 Clinic
AIA Thailand, which is part of AIA, the largest public listed pan-Asian life insurance group, announced that it has launched a ‘Virtual COVID-19 Clinic’, in collaboration with True Digital Group, a subsidiary of True Corporation, a leading communications conglomerate in Thailand and Samitivej, a private hospital brand in Thailand with a network of eight hospitals and owned by Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS).
The special consultation service was created for those with may display symptoms of COVID-19 or at high risk of contracting of the coronavirus. These include those traveling back from high-risk countries or having contact with high-risk people.
The service, which is provided by Samitivej, is available free-of-charge and all-day from 8 April to 10 May 2020 and can be accessed here. If the online doctor prescribes medication, Samitivej Hospital will handle the prescription at a 20% discount with free delivery.
COVID-19 on the tele-front lines: What telehealth nurses are encountering in the coronavirus battle
Telehealth has emerged as a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, helping to ease the burden on traditional healthcare providers by encouraging patients with unrelated mild or moderate ailments to get care via phone or online. It has also become a vital lifeline for a steadily growing number of panicked callers who are feeling symptoms of the virus but are afraid to seek in-person treatment or unable to access just-in-time guidance from other healthcare sources, such as overloaded primary care practices.
Carenet Health is a telehealth provider that supports more than 65 million healthcare consumers on behalf of 250 of the nation’s largest health plans, providers, health systems and large employers. In a recent 10-day period, we’ve seen a 1,600% increase in the number of COVID-19 triage screenings, and our overall case volume is up anywhere from 60% to 80%, depending on the time of day. Patients are calling for everything from urgent symptom-assessment, to at-home treatment guidance, to testing questions to simple reassurance.