Technology’s Role in Healthcare’s Fight Against the Coronavirus
After decades of growth and innovation, health technology took an enormous leap forward in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. From contact tracing to treatment to slowing the spread, innovative technology has been crucial in healthcare’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
Here are a few of the ways that healthcare organizations, tech developers, and researchers have leveraged technology to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and maintain a safe workforce.
To reduce the spread of the virus and free up healthcare resources in response to the pandemic, more patients and clinicians began to use telehealth for healthcare delivery. Faster Internet connections and advanced videoconferencing technology has made this possible.
Besides patient visits, telehealth and other remote work options have also helped limit in-person contact among healthcare staff. In addition, telehealth may also help to reduce costs for provider organizations and even create a revenue stop-gap for those experiencing financial difficulties after the pandemic.
2. Virus Tracking
Health technology developers have launched a large variety of tools to help track and monitor the spread of COVID-19. Australia launched the COVIDSafe contact tracing app that allows state and territory health officials to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Apple and Google partnered to launch a contact-tracing platform that used Bluetooth technology.
Experts have also been researching how to use artificial intelligence (AI) for tracking and predicting viral spread. Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have shared their work in finding the right prediction model.
3. Training Tools
As researchers and healthcare providers learned more about the novel coronavirus, they needed to disseminate that information without threatening the safety of patients or staff. Advanced learning and training tools became essential for this purpose.
A free online resource from Medical Realities, a U.K. based health tech firm, offers training for healthcare workers on essential, safe practices regarding COVID-19. The resource combines training and research from professionals across the globe, using the latest information. This is meant to help fill in knowledge gaps for medical students moving quickly into practice, existing professionals, or medical professionals coming out of retirement.
Virtual reality (VR), already used to train surgeons in many medical schools, may also help ease the effects of COVID-19 on the healthcare workforce. VR could be used successfully in therapy to help ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among frontline workers. This could reduce the psychological toll that the virus has had on healthcare staff and improve worker and patient safety.
4. 3D Printing
In the early, more uncertain days of the pandemic, medical staff across the country were concerned about a lack of medical equipment due to high demand. This led to a strain on facility resources and added further stress and safety concerns for healthcare workers. The use of 3D printing helped curb some of this demand. Both hobbyists and specialized companies have used 3D printing technology to make equipment that included face shields, swabs, and ventilator parts.
5. Safety Monitoring
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way we think of workplace safety, especially in the healthcare industry. In a post-COVID world, healthcare offices and facilities must continue to follow infection control procedures to protect the health and safety of employees and patients. This may include reporting on COVID-19 testing and immunization data, contact tracing within the organization, and validating compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
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