April 3, 2020
Smartphones, big data, and artificial intelligence applications all prove effective in preventing disease.
The fight against pandemics requires a fierce response from leaders and health officials. From Wuhan, Covid-19 quickly spread to the globe, causing many countries to blockade and apply curfew. Besides helping to socialize, technology is considered as a factor promoting the recovery process.
“The interconnected technology we have today is a weapon against pandemics,” said Alain Labrique, director of global initiatives at Johns Hopkins University. “They are also an important tool to ensure that the next pandemic has no chance of becoming a pandemic.”
Doctors recommend that people with symptoms such as high fever, dry cough and shortness of breath should get tested at health facilities. However, Dr. Jonathan Wiesen, founder of MediOrbis, said that the traditional model of examination is “full of exposure”.
“The current local health care system is the model that all people suspected of being Covid-19 can transmit the disease,” he said. Instead, people can contact a remote physician and describe symptoms, without contact with others.
In Singapore, more than one million people and 20% of doctors participate in the MaNaDr telemedicine platform, developed by Dr. Siaw Tung Yen. When Covid-19 broke out, doctors on MaNaDr screened patients and advised them to stay home if they did not need special care. Afterward, symptomatic people must report their health status remotely on the app every night. If an infection is found, the doctor immediately asks an ambulance to take them to the hospital.
According to Dr. Tung Yen, the home health care model helps people to be more comfortable during monitoring, avoid causing hospital overcrowding, the strain on medical staff and limit the possibility of transmission and cross-infection. “This app allows us to take care of, monitor and evaluate patient progress remotely,” he said.
In the US, home devices and services allow patients to measure a range of health indicators such as body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar and store results in the cloud. Thereby, the doctor can quickly detect abnormal signs.
The telemedicine model also acts as a communication tool so that hundreds of thousands of people in an area can receive advice about risks in the community and the best way to protect themselves, reassure patients psychologically and minimize panic in hospitals.
In addition, the data that the remote service collects can be analyzed to forecast the further course of the disease. Kaiser Permanente’s telephone health counseling centers act as a warning system for increasing healthcare needs. Dr. Stephen Parodi, Kaiser Permanente’s leading infectious disease expert, said the company was based on a project inspired by Google a few years ago when it developed a statistical algorithm for finding people with the flu through a search term for “flu”.
Kaiser Permanente began monitoring Covid-19 related calls of 4.5 million people in California from February. “The number of Covid-19 symptom-related calls increased from 200 to 3,500 per day – a sign for see disease start spreading in the community, “Parodi said.
Based on call statistics, Kaiser Permanente’s hospital system considers delaying a number of surgeries depending on local circumstances, in part to ensure enough ventilators and the equipment needed to treat Covid- 19 patients. Doctors also postpone regular mammograms, cancer screening tests, and most of the appointments go directly to distance-ups.
Time magazine said that the pandemic can be considered the last fire test that online technology needs to prove its value. Although the concept of distance medical examination has existed for decades, Medicare health insurance has only recently reimbursed the distance examination equivalent to the on-site examination. At the same time, some states have begun to relax regulations that allow doctors to remotely treat patients in other areas.
Dr. Wiesen of MediOrbis commented: “This pandemic is a call for the US and the world about the importance of telemedicine technology.” Meanwhile, Dr. Parodi predicts: “Covid-19 will bring about a fundamental change in the way we practice medicine and the operation model of the healthcare system will be more common. “
Not yet widely applied technological inventions could also be the key to stopping Covid-19 and other epidemics from breaking out in the future. Analysis of health data, including patient records or over-the-counter medication history, provides valuable clues to control the spread. In addition, the emergence of health monitoring applications on smartphones has helped researchers understand the trend of each person’s hyperthermia and warn of new cases.
The controversial measure of the location data of smartphones also makes sense because it helps authorities detect Covid-19 patients early. For example, South Korea identifies people in contact with members of the Grace River church in Seoul, the latest outbreak in the country, by locating smartphones.
Smartphones are especially important in quarantine work in countries with underdeveloped technology infrastructure. The Labrique of John Hopkins University, Bangladesh has added the Covid-19 symptom questionnaire in an application created with the original purpose of supporting diabetics.
All real-time data, such as snapshots of where an outbreak is, helps speed up the process of finding potential patients. However, to fully control the spread, the health system needs help from artificial intelligence. For example, AI can analyze the situation of Covid-19 patients and suggest the best treatment plan.
Jvion is using AI to study data including medical history, lifestyle and other factors such as the residence and work of 30 million patients to detect high-risk cases of Covid-19. The company also works with a number of major hospital systems in the United States to create lists of suspected people and share information with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, health information is inherently sensitive, so the effectiveness of measures to use AI to control outbreaks depends on data security. Only when people are assured of privacy, the system has high-quality data to make an accurate forecast based on the algorithm.
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