The recent outburst of COVID -19 has scared the world and business, economy, has come to standstill. Although the whole world has come together to fight this pandemic, yet our healthcare system is still falling behind for which lockdown has become the only option for us to prevent the spread of the disease.Novel coronavirus is similar to SARS,MERS yet we failed to curb the spread across the world.Pandemic diseases are difficult to identify at the beginning, spread easily but can new technologies help the current healthcare system to fight back in a more effective manner?
The boom in information,internet and technology in this 21st century has helped the Healthcare system in treatment of many genetic and chronic diseases like cancer,diabetes, arthritis. Technology has helped in a lot starting from detecting cancerous cells to removal of blockage from arteries. This information age has helped to gather knowledge about all type of diseases and utilize those to develop treatment process and instruments to tackle it. However when the focus is shifted to a pandemic disease, things don’t look so promising. To get a more detailed picture, let’s categorize a pandemic disease into three parts; detection of disease, spread and transmission of the disease, cure of the disease.
The first phase is detection of the disease and identification of the source of it. In general, pandemic occurs when RNA of a virus mutates. Since mutation occurs ,it becomes very tough to detect what causes it. Technology can only gather the information and store it so that in future, if any similar virus comes to the scene, then previous data can help to predict a few symptoms of the disease. Also the detection of source is very important. The disease may be airborne, rodent borne etc.But until a large number of people is affected by the ame process, determination of the source remains doubtful. Here IT can play a limited role by gathering detailed information of previously occurring diseases. Once a new pandemic is identified, this information will help to link the similar symptoms and proceed in a similar line in curing it.
The second phase is accessing the transmission of the disease, determining how quickly it is getting spread and most importantly the mortality rate. Here we can implement a few technologies that will help to find out who are infected and how to separate them from healthy persons. Mobile applications implementing artificial intelligence can be used to collect demographics data,symptoms of the disease and show the risk level to the infected person and suggest what steps to be taken further. This kind of informational app can help persons to know about the disease and take steps without depending upon others. Health Monitoring apps can be developed which will measure the intensity of various symptoms exhibited by the person while getting diagnosed. This will help the medical officers to sort out the critical cases from normal ones and provide necessary medications. These apps measure the intensity by indicating various colors.
The third phase is cure of the pandemic. As a pandemic affects alarge number of people at a time,speeding up the detection process and providing right medications is the only effective way. To speed up the diagnosis process, robots can be used which will both speed up the testing process and also reduce human exposure to infected persons. Developing vaccines is altogether a different story. Vaccines are specialized for each disease. So AI can help only to a certain extent to develop the vaccine by leading the way in some particular direction based on previous diseases and vaccines. Vaccine development largely lies in the development of chemicals and drugs which will make the body resistant to such viruses or bacteria.
Although it looks technology can’t do much in stopping a pandemic yet it can play a major role in curbing its collateral damage. A few which can be implemented are
1. A blockchain platform can helps speed up claims processing and reduces the amount of face-to-face interaction between patients and hospital staff
2. Drones can be used to patrol public spaces, track non-compliance to quarantine mandates, and for thermal imaging and also help in faster delivery of medical supplies
3. Robots can be used to sterilize things and sanitize places prone to infections thus reducing transmission
4. Technology embedded fabrics can help medical officers to protect themselves while treating patients
5. The cloud computing resources and supercomputers can help to run calculations and model solutions is much faster than standard computer processing and help in developing vaccine as quickly as possible
Pandemics are hard to trace instantly due to RNA mutation yet with sufficient information and latest technologies,we can certainly minimise the collateral damage caused by it. We have eradicated pandemics like small pox. Wonder when these modern technologies will wrap around healthcare systems to develop a strong armour to fight against future pandemics