COVID-19: The Role of Digital Health Against the Pandemic

Source: Das E-3 Magazin

It is already cliché to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every one of our lives in one way or another. No matter which continent or industry you consider, the effects of this ‘invisible’ virus have been felt. Notwithstanding, we have shown our adaptability and resilience as humans, and have adjusted, some more than others, to this new, hopefully temporary, social distancing way of life.

We have seen a swift increase in reliance on digital technology to continue working, learning, entertaining ourselves, producing, delivering, and consuming goods and services. In the Healthcare Industry, especially the digital health sector, changes and adoption of digital health technologies are probably happening multiple times as fast as anywhere else. As Public Health organizations and Health Providers struggle to contain the pandemic and care for the overwhelming numbers of Covid-19 patients, as well as all other people who need their attention for the different medical conditions that have always existed, here are some of the practical digital health technologies that have been of major assistance:

Source: Tech Wire Asia


This includes teleconsultation, telementoring, and telemonitoring. With the help of telemedicine, many patients continue to access their healthcare providers (HCPs) without putting either party at risk of getting infected, by reducing both travel in public transport and direct contacts between patients and their caregivers. Many patients with mild respiratory symptoms, who do not need medical intervention, are being monitored daily from their homes via telemedicine as well.

Telemedicine has been used extensively for ‘forward triage’ — the sorting of patients before they arrive in the emergency department (ED) — to prevent overcrowding of EDs. Thankfully, some governments have supported by relaxing some regulations temporarily, while insurance companies are covering more telemedicine services.

Platforms and Technologies for Health Education

Fake and unreliable news have been produced massively and spread fast over the internet. To combat this ‘infodemic’ which can be fatal, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and some others have promoted reliable sources of information. They have also leveraged available technologies to provide up-to-date information about the pandemic like the WHO chatbot on WhatsApp. In Rwanda, where internet penetration is not very high, the government has been fitting drones with megaphones to pass reliable facts and information to the people.

However, health education is not limited to the public alone. Medical trainees continue to be educated, and HCPs constantly updated on how to use or scale up their Telemedicine usage during this period.

Technologies and Applications for Tracking and Tracing

Several systems and applications have emerged that help to contain the spread of the virus by finding, contacting, and giving adequate instructions to people who may have been in risky contact with infected persons. They are mainly Bluetooth-based and follow the open-source BlueTrace model.

Some examples are the mobile app developed by Airports of Thailand (AoT) to track all incoming foreigners as well as Thai nationals coming from high-risk countries, the CovidSafe app developed in Australia to speed up their manual tracing and help health officials contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in a more timely fashion, and the NHS COVID-19 app currently being test run on the Isle of Wight.

In addition to containing the virus, these apps provide vital information for making decisions on when, where, and how to ease the lockdowns. It is safe to say that, notwithstanding the possible data security issues, the greater the uptake, the better for everyone. This study from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine even goes on to say that if 56% of the population used the app, the epidemic could be suppressed.


Quarantine Management Solutions

We have seen the Covid-19 cases grow exponentially, strain and overwhelm health systems in different countries. In response, digital health solutions have shown how they can bolster quarantine efforts and reduce the stress on health systems and HCPs. Alongside monitoring people with mild to moderate symptoms of the virus at home with the help of applications like Covidom, more people with chronic conditions (like Chronic Heart Failure) are safely monitoring and securely transferring vital health data from home with the help of AI-powered Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) systems and connected medical devices such as Cardiomo.

Online health communities and especially mental health support groups have also played an important role in making life bearable for people in quarantine around the world. These groups have largely made quarantine management possible and sometimes even comfortable for affected persons. The so-called “Pandemic Drones” by Draganfly equipped with computer vision systems, could also be used in the future to measure temperature, heart and respiratory rates from above, and to detect people with symptoms (like sneezing or coughing) in crowds as well as in locked-down areas.

These are but a few ways Digital Health has been at the forefront in our collective battle against this pandemic. One of the silver linings of this pandemic cloud is the unprecedented growth opportunity for Digital Health Technologies; in the future, more and better digital health systems and applications will support current healthcare systems to prevent such outbreaks, improve healthcare quality and make it more accessible and affordable.

In the meantime, let us remember and support the front-line workers and cooperate with public health officials during this pandemic by being responsible for our personal health, minimizing movement, and therefore, protecting loved ones and ourselves. In due time, this too shall pass.

Are you using any of these digital health tools as a HCP to care for patients, or as a patient to stay in contact with your HCP(s)? What future roles in healthcare can digital health play? Please SHARE your thoughts.




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Gen Ikeliani

Gen Ikeliani

I like many things: 1. Digital Health * ∞

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