We are living in an age where technology continues to cause major disruptions across all sectors, from automating the world of work to dramatically transforming our way of life.
By Sujesh Sugunan
We are living in an age where technology continues to cause major disruptions across all sectors, from automating the world of work to dramatically transforming our way of life. As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, technological innovations are multiplying to combat the spread of the virus, treat a rapidly increasing number of patients and normalise pressure for overworked healthcare workers. During these uncertain times, surveillance technologies have been leveraged in an unprecedented manner to support public health.
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In health management, technology is increasingly playing a key role in almost all processes from lab tests to data monitoring, from self care tools to devices that ensure safe & virus-free air and so on. Scientists are frantically applying gene editing; robots, artificial intelligence and drones are being deployed to enforce restrictive measures; and nanotechnologies are being used in a bid to prepare and test future treatments and diagnostics. Furthermore, 3D printing seems capable of sustaining the effort of governments around the world to meet the increasing need for medical hardware.
Digital Technologies in Response to COVID-19
Research continues and technology experts are shocking the world with their inventions to stop the spread of COVID-19. There have been many developments – from devices that produce 100% negative ions to ensure clean & breathable air for everyone to blockchain technology emerging as a key technology in the critical domain of epidemic management.
As coronavirus spreads, governments and researchers across the globe are racing to develop treatments to combat the pandemic. Synthetic biology is one of such technological advancements. In synthetic biology, scientists take a multidisciplinary approach, using engineering, biology, chemistry, genetics and computer science to substantially alter the genotype of viruses. This can contribute to advances in fields ranging from pest control of invasive species to drug and vaccine development. Further, from food and medicine delivery to disinfection and street patrols in quarantined districts, drones are being deployed on the front line to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Like drones, robots are also being used to provide services and care for those quarantined. Robotics developers are responding swiftly to public health issues.
Technology Improving Health Management
The current pandemic exposed many limitations in delivering care and cutting down health care costs. The initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak saw an unprecedented shift to virtual care delivery, fuelled by regulatory flexibility and necessity. However, what began as a rescue from the uncertain situation soon opened the aperture for digital technologies to solve healthcare problems. Smartphones and wearables are replacing conventional monitoring systems, allowing people to undergo full consultation in the privacy of their own homes. As a result, technology is increasingly becoming the backbone of the healthcare ecosystem.
AI-based solutions have helped fight the pandemic and tap potential cases of COVID-19 by effectively streamline diagnostic and treatment processes through large amounts of structured and unstructured data across medical institutions. Also, there have been various developments around the testing procedure, making it more efficient, fast and reliable. These solutions have aided physicians in health systems and others involved in clinical decision-making by providing them data driven insights and real time data that they analyse and implement based on their expertise. Needless to say, health plans and health systems are likely to evolve and improve considering the response to COVID-19 with a renewed focus on affordability and efficiency. This is more obvious from the way healthtech organisations are using the power of AI to make better predictions from data – proactively reaching out to stakeholders with information on progression and next best action in addition to supporting physicians in clinical decision-making.
As the pandemic is ongoing, it is too early to quantify the added value of technological advancements to the pandemic response. Indeed! Digital technologies have an important role in a comprehensive response to pandemics, thereby contributing to reducing the human and economic impact of COVID-19.
The technological applications and initiatives are responding positively to stem contagion and effectively treat the patients. Though technology in itself cannot replace other public policy measures, it does have a significantly important role to play in emergency public-health responses.
(The author is Chairman & CEO, Allabout Innovations and Co-Founder and Director, Wolf Innovations Pvt. Ltd. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)