Roundup: Tech’s role in tracking, testing, treating COVID-19
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. We have seen the digital health community 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.
In terms of COVID-19, we are seeing another rise in digital epidemiology tools, chatbot helpers, EHR guidance tools and rapid-response test kits. Apple launched a COVID-19 website and a corresponding app. The new site, which serves as both a screening tool and information platform, was born out of collaboration with Apple, the CDC, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and FEMA. Users can go onto the site and answer a list of questions including symptoms, risk factors, and exposure. At the end of the survey, users are given a directive about possible next steps.
COVID-19 home-testing kit could soon be available for purchase in the UK
Public Health England (PHE) informed the UK government that (25 March) home-testing kits that identify whether a person has ever been infected with COVID-19 could soon be available to order online and from chemists. The simple finger-prick test should take no more than 15 minutes and will see members of the public extract blood from home and send their sample off for evaluation.
Coronavirus: NHS turns to big tech to tackle COVID-19 hot spots
The NHS has confirmed it is teaming up with leading tech firms to ensure critical medical equipment is available to the facilities most in need during the coronavirus outbreak. It blogged the firms would create computer dashboard screens to show the spread of the virus and the healthcare system’s ability to deal with it.
The blog confirmed that NHSX – a unit responsible for digital innovation – was heading the effort to harness a range of data sources so that they could be used in combination. The aim is to create dashboards that draw on the information as soon as it becomes available to help the government and health chiefs to:
- Understand how the virus is spreading and identify risks to particularly vulnerable groups of people
- Proactively increase resources in emerging hot spots
- Ensure critical equipment is supplied to hospitals and other facilities in greatest need
- Divert patients to the facilities best able to care for them based on demand, resources and staffing capacity
It added that the information would “largely” be drawn from existing data sources, and would be anonymized so that individual patients could not be identified. It said this would involve removing names, addresses, and other identifiers, and replacing them with a “pseudonym”.
In time, it said, the aim was to provide a separate dashboard that could be viewed by the public.
Regarding the tech firms, it said:
- Microsoft had built a data store on its Azure cloud computing platform to hold the information in a single, secure location
- Palantir was providing use of its Foundry software tool, which analyses records to deliver a “single source of truth”
- Faculty AI was developing the dashboards, models, and simulations that decision-makers would be presented with
- Google’s G Suite of productivity apps might be used to collect and aggregate real-time operational data such as occupancy levels and A&E capacity
COVID-19: Why the US is hit so hard?
Negative approach, delayed actions, and wrong policies resulted in making the US the most hard-hit country in the world. With confirmed cases 104,256, the US has surpassed the rest of the world. The second highest cases were reported 86,498 in Italy and third 81,394 in China. Italy is a country with the highest number of deaths 9,134, Spain5, 138, and China 3,295.
Globally, the confirmed Coronavirus cases have reached 597,501, and deaths 27,371. The figure kept on increasing rapidly over time. This figure is not close to facts, as the numbers of tests conducted are very much limited. Even it is beyond the capacity of the Developed World to test each suspect individually, no way to talk about the developing world and underdeveloped countries. It has already entered into a horrible threat to humankind.
Vaccines trials in the COVID-19 and tech’s role in speeding studies
The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the challenges pharmaceutical companies face as they race to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Thrown into even sharper relief than usual are the needs faced by all vaccine trials to balance study speed, data accuracy, and patient experience. Additionally, given the fear of exposure and city mandates for individuals to stay at home, traditional patient recruitment challenges are exacerbated for a coronavirus trial. Placebo groups are unlikely to be used and the virus affects a very broad and non-discriminate patient population.
So, what is technology’s role in supporting the faster evaluation of vaccines? The right data capture technology can provide some important ways to first speed up vaccine research and then gain quicker regulatory submissions, compared with traditional paper records. Vaccine trials in the era of COVID-19 – balancing study speed, accuracy, and patient experience is being held in association with ERT.
Coronavirus: Technology is used to fight the pandemic
AI to identify, track and forecast outbreaks: The better we can track the virus, the better we can fight it. By analyzing news reports, social media platforms, and government documents, AI can learn to detect an outbreak. Tracking infectious disease risks by using AI is exactly the service Canadian startup Blue Dot provides. The Blue Dot’s AI warned of the threat several days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization issued their public warnings.
Drones deliver medical supplies: One of the safest and fastest ways to get medical supplies where they need to go during a disease outbreak is with drone delivery. Terra Drone is using its unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk between Xinchang County’s disease control center and the People’s Hospital. Drones also are used to patrol public spaces, track non-compliance to quarantine mandates, and for thermal imaging.
Supercomputers working on a coronavirus vaccine: The cloud computing resources and supercomputers of several major tech companies such as Tencent, DiDi, and Huawei are being used by researchers to fast-track the development of a cure or vaccine for the virus. The speed these systems can run calculations and model solutions are much faster than standard computer processing. In a global pandemic such as COVID-19, technology, artificial intelligence, and data science have become critical to helping societies effectively deal with the outbreak.