Since the coronavirus began its course around the world in early 2020, the pandemic has spread its effects across industries and countries. Along with the lives lost totalling almost 1million globally, hundreds of millions have suffered financially due to lost job contracts and redundancies, and sectors such as Aviation, Hospitality, Entertainment, Leisure and Retail have experienced unprecedented damage.
However, the past six months has also seen innovation like never before. Those working in Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing have pooled their knowledge and resources in a collaborative approach to the fight against the pandemic.
Here are five ways that tech is being deployed to empower medical breakthroughs, shore up businesses and industries and support those most in need.
In 2020 big data and AI have helped authorities and healthcare systems across the globe to prepare and continuously improve their responses to the pandemic in real-time. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Chinese Government used mobile phone and social media channels to track the location of people who had visited the Wuhan market where the disease first began spreading.
Renowned medical journal The Lancet explains, ‘Machine learning models were developed to forecast the regional transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 and guide border checks and surveillance. As soon as China reported the outbreak, Taiwan initiated health checks for airline travellers from Wuhan, integrating data from immigration records with its centralised, real-time national health insurance database.
‘This integration allowed health-care facilities to access patients' travel histories and identify individuals for SARS-CoV-2 testing and tracking. Taiwan's proximity to Wuhan, China, made the region particularly susceptible to COVID-19, but its efficient use of big data is credited for the low number of cases and deaths.’
Analysis from Gartner reveals that a growth in ‘telehealth’ services has helped the global healthcare industry shift to safer hospital practices in response to the pandemic. Digital tools have been implemented in hospitals across continents to perform diagnosis at a safe distance and improve collaboration and communication between health departments. Efficiencies delivered with digital medical tools mean that doctors can see a greater number of patients through video appointments and analyse data recorded in patient apps to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, whilst dramatically reducing disease transmission risk inside GP surgeries and healthcare settings.
South Korean medical software business Lunit has launched its services online for free. The company’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) programmes can diagnose lung diseases via X-ray images. Hospitals across countries are able to upload up to 20 cases per day for AI diagnosis. The company says innovations like AI have been an important contributor to flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases in South Korea.
By tracking the general health of those with Covid-19 and those without it, and by tracking the symptoms of the disease, technology can collect a vast amount of data that reveals patterns in how the illness is mutating as it spreads through the population, and what this may mean for our long-term health.
Universities, healthcare services and Governments across the world have collaborated to create technology products that are aiding medical advancement:
Brazilian logistics technology company Cargo has set up a $5million fund to support the transport of food, medicines and essential hygiene products. The initiative pays the salaries of carriers and drivers conducting essential work, meaning that individual workers in traditionally lower-paid jobs are supported – therefore reducing unemployment – whilst keeping businesses thriving and ensuring vital goods are received by families who are most in need. Cargo’s software spreads salary costs in a way that supports workers and businesses when cash flow is tight at different times of the month.
Apple has also stepped in to facilitate logistics and deliveries of essential food and medicine throughout the pandemic. Apple have spent recent months finding and distributing medical supplies and other items needed by healthcare workers, and have donated and delivered millions of units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep healthcare workers safe and reduce disease transmission. CEO Elon Musk recently announced that he would provide 1,200 ventilators to global hospitals at no charge in an effort to save the lives of those worst affected by the illness.
The tech industry’s largest players have utilised their capital and influence to generate a new and vital source of funding. Internet providers, social media channels, streaming service providers, logistics organisations and retailers have all made mammoth contributions to the fight against Covid-19 so far, including:
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