A free online waiting list estimation tool for NHS patients has predicted that almost 10 million people could be waiting for NHS services by the end of the year if there is a second peak of the COVID-19 virus. The tool, by UK digital hospital Medbelle, uses publicly available data published by the NHS to estimate waiting lists for elective treatments, based on former NHS capacity. Users can toggle NHS capacity by scenario, treatment, and hospital to get estimates on how long waiting lists will be in any given month.
Medbelle has developed different scenarios for NHS capacity that will impact patient waiting lists, including a second peak of the COVID-19 outbreak and two scenarios that see the NHS operating at 80% and 50% capacity once services resume after July. The estimation tool has two parts: an overview, which can be accessed online, and a hospital-specific section, which can be accessed via email signup on the same site.
Finnish health tech innovators feel the COVID-19 effect
Finnish health tech businesses have enjoyed a pandemic lift with more than half reporting a positive impact during the spring as the crisis unfolded, according to a survey carried out by Health Capital Helsinki, the alliance that supports growth, collaboration and international investment in the country’s innovator community. The alliance asked the 57 SMEs on its list of Finnish COVID-19-related health tech innovators about the effect of the pandemic on their business, strategy, and future plans. While 53% of 30 respondents said the impact has been positive, there have also inevitably been some frustrations, with business disrupted by travel restrictions and the overwhelming demands on healthcare customers’ resources.
Innovators in remote healthcare, diagnostics, and communications have been feeling the greatest benefits as the need for solutions, tests, and equipment among healthcare providers and research laboratories escalated rapidly during the early stages of the pandemic.
COVID-19 tracing apps in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Norway spark privacy concerns
Bahrain and Kuwait are using their COVID-19 contact tracing apps as mass surveillance tools, it has emerged. According to a new report released by Amnesty International, the two Gulf States, along with Norway, have released “some of the most invasive COVID-19 contact tracing apps around the world, putting the privacy and security of hundreds of thousands of people at risk.”
In its investigation, Amnesty’s Security Lab reviewed apps released in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, focusing on 11 products from Algeria, Bahrain, France, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Qatar, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates. According to the NGO, Bahrain’s ‘Be Aware’, Kuwait’s ‘Shlonik’ and Norway’s ‘Smittestopp’ emerged as the “most alarming mass surveillance tools” with the three reportedly carrying out live or near-live tracking of users’ locations by frequently uploading GPS coordinates to a central server. Most contact-tracing apps rely solely on Bluetooth signals.
“Bahrain, Kuwait, and Norway have run roughshod over people’s privacy, with highly invasive surveillance tools which go far beyond what is justified in efforts to tackle COVID-19,” stated Claudio Guarnieri, head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. “Privacy must not be another casualty as governments rush to roll out apps.”
The relevance of digital skills in the COVID-19 era
The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed how the world functions, illustrating the limitations of many existing systems and highlighting the need to reimagine the role of information technology as a lever for economic productivity and growth. It is imperative that businesses and governments digitize their operations and coordinate their activities to enable business continuity and build resilience to future crises. Industries such as telecoms and media have been less affected by this pandemic than for instance aviation and tourism which have been squeezed by anti-pandemic measures. Companies in lesser impacted industries are better placed to continue with business as usual particularly if they leverage embedded digital channels and tech solutions as part of customer service and other business operations. In fact, many may claim greater market share once the business climate improves in the post-COVID-19 world.
The development of digital skills is an important part of building resilience to economic and social shocks like those presented by the COVID-19 outbreak. This is already being recognized in Africa, where the acquisition of digital skills can serve as a hedge against unemployment risks. This reality has begun to drive African youth to focus on developing these skills, which are available on globally accessible virtual learning platforms, including the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment platform (CfE) e-learning platform. The Bank’s flagship digital skills program equips African youth with demand-driven ICT skills and connects them to opportunities in the technology sector to develop solutions and create innovative products to solve day-to-day problems.
Huma Proves the Case for Digital Health amid Covid-19 Crisis
From the economic rubble of the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be opportunities to build better and stronger structures in many of our industries. Digital health is a good example and one entrepreneurial British healthcare technology company is showing just what might be possible.
London-based Huma has teamed up with the NHS’s digital transformation unit to launch a range of remote monitoring services for Covid-19 patients in their homes. The tools enable doctors to monitor the condition of patients without them having to come into a GP’s surgery or a hospital – both patients who are quarantining at home because they’re suffering from Covid-19 and those in self-isolation.
Huma’s technology – and similar innovation from providers across the digital health sector – has applications well beyond Covid-19, with benefits for all. “When you deliver proactive care early the outcomes are better,” says Vahdat. “They’re better outcomes for patients, they’re better for the healthcare system because patients are at home rather than spreading the virus, and they’re more cost-efficient.” In this regard, Huma’s Covid-19 projects represent a breakthrough for digital health, where practitioners have sometimes been cautious in the past. “We’re starting to understand that remote care can be as good a way to look after patients as traditional care settings,” adds Vahdat. “In some cases, it is better and safer.”