Advanced healthcare technology: Saving grace during COVID-19?
As the world struggles to beat COVID-19, the healthcare industry turns to advances in technology for help in managing, if not controlling, the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated realities concerning the healthcare industry. First, it has shed light on the longstanding deficiencies of the system as medical workers struggle to manage the infection while putting themselves at risk. Second, advances in medical technology have great potential in helping tired medical frontliners with managing some of the greatest public health challenges.
In terms of technology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized the value of technology and surveillance systems in building a stronger response against the outbreak. In fact, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy prompted tech companies to partner with science communities in creating solutions for better COVID-19 management.
Healthcare technologies such as EHR software, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D-imaging, and more have the potential to limit the spread of the virus and assist in the treatment of infected individuals, which flattens the curve overall.
Tracking the Pandemic
Technology simplifies the management of COVID-19 by providing early signals to potential infection. As of now, mass testing for suspected cases is a struggle due to the shortage of testing kits. Public health authorities limit test eligibility to healthcare workers and symptomatic patients. There is also a delay of 14 days between the onset of physical symptoms and, if the patient manages to get a COVID-19 test, the receipt of results.
Fortunately, companies in the medical industry are developing products to simplify the management of COVID-19. For example, Kinsa Health, a company that produces internet-connected thermometers, has released smart thermometers that help people record their temperatures at home. Users of the thermometer can instantly note their symptoms and fevers. Although the thermometer cannot verify a person’s COVID-19 status, it can capture fever spikes and signal potential infection.
Monitoring Patients and Hospital Visitors
Thanks to artificial intelligence, hospitals can help healthcare professionals to treat infected patients and screen patients. Some hospitals use thermal scans to sort healthy visitors from feverish ones, as well as camera-embedded facial scanners that analyze facial attributes. The University of Massachusetts Amherst also developed FluSense, an AI-powered device that analyzes cough sounds to limit the spread of viral respiratory diseases.
Another form of remote AI technology, remote monitoring, can be used by hospitals and other healthcare facilities to carefully monitor patients and protect their staff.
3D Printing of Materials and Equipment
As healthcare workers continue to experience an unprecedented number of cases every day, medical institutions worldwide face equipment shortages. The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and worn-out medical equipment put both patients and healthcare personnel at risk.
To meet these demands, medical suppliers are turning to 3D printers for masks and even mechanical ventilators. Some companies produce 3D-printed valves to connect oxygen masks to respirators, filling in the supply chain gap.
Smartphone Tracking for Better Contact Tracing
As COVID-19 continues to infect an exponential number of people, conventional tracing methods to separate patients with the virus and limit transmission are no longer enough. For this reason, governments around the world have turned to technology for help. Using a smartphone, authorities can identify where a suspected COVID-19 patient has been, as well as alert those who might be in proximity to someone who has the disease.
Drones and Robots for Supply Chain Management
Drones and robots prove their value when it comes to delivering goods to people who are quarantined at home. Apart from being helpful in delivering supplies and food, these robots are immune to infection. They can be used for the distribution of food and drugs, disinfection, and vital sign assessment.
Many tech companies have stepped up to the challenge of using robots to deliver medical supplies within the healthcare community. Drones are also used for the disinfection of areas on a larger scale. Some drones use thermal sensing to recognize people with high temperatures or crowd control.
Medical Advice at Home via Telemedicine
Due to the quick and easy transmission of COVID-19, social distancing measures are a must. But what if you need to see a doctor? Should you risk your health by visiting a hospital? As for hospitals dealing with plenty of critical cases, is there a way they can reduce unnecessary visits?
During the pandemic, telemedicine saw a boom in demand. This ready-made option sees patients consulting with their doctors from the comfort of their homes. Using video-conferencing apps, a patient can discuss their symptoms or have their doctor monitor their ailments remotely. Telemedicine reduces the need for hospital visits, enabling doctors to focus on more urgent cases.
As the world continues to battle the pandemic, it’s encouraging to know that human ingenuity and knowledge are great sources of solutions. Concerns regarding the risks and impact of technology in healthcare and battling COVID-19 might still exist. However, there is no denying that technology is a big help in managing the pandemic. Hopefully, it would be enough to address the end of COVID-19 soon.
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