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Necessity is the mother of Innovation: Technology, Contact Tracing and Coronavirus
Technology - May 12, 2020
Contact tracing applications have been stealing the headlines for obvious reasons. The entire world is gripped in this pandemic and every sector of life is crippled to the core. In the absence of a vaccine or even a cure, the world is turning its eyes on measures that would curb the spread of the Coronavirus. Technology, along with Healthcare has been at the forefront in our long fight against the pandemic.
Let us look at the different use cases where technology has been involved against Coronavirus and then look into detail about Contact Tracing app and see how it works.
1) Nursing home tracing
CarePredict, a digital health company focused on senior citizens designed a set of contact tracing tools especially designed for seniors living in special living facilities. This tool is named PinPoint and involves four types of tracing:
a. Location tracing
b. Contact tracing
c. Path tracing
d. Room traffic.
PinPoint uses indoor location technology to empower the above tracing functionalities.
2) Plasma donation
Microsoft has developed a new chatbot to connect with COVID-19 recovered patients. This chatbot checks with such patients if they are willing to donate plasma for research and treatment.
The bot has been dubbed COVIG-19 plasma bot and apart from consent for plasma donation, it also checks other necessary details like date of discharge, HIV status, blood group, weight. Once the participants put these details and their zip code, the app guides them with directions to the nearest donation center.
3) Finding patients for trials
Clara health has designed a tool which connects personnel to coronavirus clinical trials. The product, dubbed as World without COVID is aimed at speeding the process of finding the vaccine and other forms of treatments.
4) Denmark updates
An IT service provider company, Netcompany in collaboration with Danish government has created digital solutions aimed at easing the national lockdown restrictions. Some of the apps as part of the digital solutions include COVIDmeter (helps people in diagnosing the virus symptoms) and Mobile proximity app (measures the spread of the virus).
5) Shoot me a message app
Pando Health in the UK designed an app which allows medical staffs to communicate securely with one another. This enables healthcare personnel to share suggestions, test/lab results and other updates. The app was initially launched in 2018 but its usage exploded after the pandemic began, seeing a 700% jump in traffic. The app is approved by National Health Service of United Kingdom.
6) Evidence research
The organizations, Aetion and HealthVerity have collaborated to launch a new set of tools aimed at enabling pharma company to find possible COVID-19 treatments. One such tool is the Real-Time evidence platform which synthesizers data usage, safety and effectiveness data. Another tool is the Real time trend reporting and interactive data visualizer which describes COVID-19's overall and lists out the ways by patients are leveraging healthcare.
7) Virtual Reality for stress
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel have borne the brunt of the virus. They had to work long hours, sometimes without any break and attend to hundreds of patients. In addition, many doctors have themselves contracted the virus and few have unfortunately died. The amount of stress is unimaginable and in order to help the healthcare workers better deal with this stress, a company in Italy, Limbix Italia created innovative VR headsets. These headsets contain guided breathing techniques aimed at reducing stress and anxiety in healthcare workers.
8) X ray tool
Qure.ai, an AI startup developed its diagnostic software which measures the extent of viral spread in the body by using the chest X-rays data.
9) Mental health awareness
Hims and hers, a consumer telehealth and mail order prescription services are organizing therapy sessions to help people and patients deal with the stress associated with COVID-19.
10) Facebook’s Data for Good
Through its data for good program, Facebook has created three maps which is aimed at tracking the spread of COVID-19 virus. The map uses aggregated Facebook data along with data assembled from public health organizations.
Contact Tracing apps: How does it work?
Let us now turn our focus on Contact tracing apps who are helping authorities identify and isolate possible COVID-19 cases
The main idea of a contact tracing app is to let the people know if they have been in the vicinity of a COVID-19 patient. The tool uses Bluetooth technology and makes it easier for authorities to track possible cases and put them into quarantine.
The app works when users who have installed the app voluntarily opt-in to record details of their symptoms if they feel unwell.
The app then sends a yellow signal to people who too have the app and who have been in close contact with the person who was unwell. If the unwell person is confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, then the yellow notification turns red and all those people who initially had the yellow notification and who were in close contact with the unwell person are advised to immediately isolate themselves and go into quarantine.
The app also alerts everyone in the contact list of the infected person. Nevertheless, people will not know who the infected person originally was. The records won't be linked to names of the people but the app will use anonymous ID's which are linked to the device. This way the identity of the infected person remains private.
Apple and Google who are codeveloping the software advised that the system can record the vicinity data if the two smartphone users are within couple of feet of each other and for a time duration of up to 10 minutes. The Bluetooth technology, used in the app can locate these devices from up to 15 feet. The app is being built in two steps. In the first step, iPhones and Android phones would be able to exchange information wirelessly for apps developed only by the government authorities. One such app launched in India is Arogya Setu. In coming months, Google and Apple aim to integrate this technology directly into their Operating systems. This way their reach will expand multifold and efficiency of this technology will be greatly increased.
It is important to note that this functionality will only be available on Public health apps and user data (which is mostly personal in nature) will not be misused. Apple and Google have confirmed that data will be handled according to highest ethical and security standards.
Technology is finding news ways to fight against the Coronavirus. There have been swift innovations and we are relying on technology in not just finding possible Coronavirus cases and keeping the ones who are not infected safe but also in finding a possible treatment. In addition, technology is also assisting our doctors and nurses in all possible ways. Technology is going to be our great ally as we fight this virus and keep our hopes alive towards a speedy return to normal.