The Role of Technology in the COVID-19 Pandemic
The increase of the number of cases worldwide of COVID-19 is frightening. The whole world, first-world and third-world countries alike are trying to grasp the situation and control what is seeming to be an unwinnable fight. One of the ways which can help our situation is technology. Although not a direct solution to cure the virus, technology is important both in the present and the future to come.
At present, there is no known cure or vaccine to fight the deadly COVID-19 virus. Current treatment for those who test positive for the disease comprise of treating the symptoms, and in worse cases, providing supportive care to help the patients breathe. A cure or a vaccine will strengthen the world’s chances of fighting off this disease, by being able to finally address the virus itself. Technology plays a huge role in the development of either a cure or a vaccine. The WHO, along with participating countries, are conducting a solidarity trial to find potential treatments for the disease, more specifically, drugs or combinations which will be employed by hospitals in treating the disease.
This is what the entire world is anticipating. Technology further speeds up the process, not only through more advanced scientific methods in developing a cure, but also with regard to communication between the involved countries and the participants of the trials. With the available technology now, not only will it become easier for the participating countries to exchange results among each other, but data analysis is faster, as well as the results of ongoing trials shared with those awaiting in their homes. Transparency in finding a cure, and seeing the rate at which it is being done, not only relieves the people of anxiety amidst this pandemic, but also gives hope.
While we await the said cure, social distancing has been the norm. Social distancing proves effective to attain the wanted flattening of the curve, a staggering of the number of new cases over a longer period. This is important for people to have better access to care and hospitals are not overwhelmed with the patients to be treated. In the current situation where staying at home day-to-day is the general rule, and going out for essentials is the rare exception, technology is not only something to turn to in passing the time, but its use can speed up our goal to attain the flattened curve.
During an outbreak, it is vital that the people are communicated to ensure that they are both informed of what’s happening to the country as well as reminded of the appropriate precautions to take. Informing the people regarding the disease through constant messaging and updates allows the public to know how to defend themselves from the seemingly invisible threat to our lives. Information dissemination on proper measures to take in disinfecting products and even disinfecting people themselves plays a big role in ensuring that the social distancing measures continue to be effective. Constant communication between the people and the proper government agencies not only inform us of what’s happening, but it also prevents the spread of the infamous fake news.
The most innovative way of using technology has been seen and proven to be effective in South Korea. Many are applauding their use of technology vis-à-vis the pandemic in order to enhance their social distancing policies, but also their shift towards using technology to identify, track, and defeat the virus. Initially, the South Korean government used information such as credit card transactions and mobile phone GPS locations to systematize and track the confirmed cases. After doing so, they gave access to such information to the public, allowing the people themselves to know if they had been in any possible contact with a carrier. This in turn allows these people to undergo tests for themselves.
Not only has technology helped to identify the movement of carriers, but it also made possible a smart quarantine information system. A self-health check mobile application was created for in-bound travelers who were required to download the application and submit their health condition on the app while they quarantine themselves in their homes for the 14-day incubation period. The information is saved in their system and allows frontline health workers to have a record of the patient’s history, should there be a need to hospitalize the said patient. Those quarantined are also messaged, with the collaboration of telecom companies, on how to report any additional symptoms that may arise.
With the amount of information that has been acquired and stored using technology, hospitals are not overwhelmed with continuous influx of patients. Instead, the flow of patients is mitigated, since those with mild symptoms feel secure in their own homes as they are properly taken care of despite being at home. In the event that patients need to go to the hospital, there is no longer any need for healthcare workers to use their time in recording the patient’s history, as it is already provided for. This leads toward efficiency in the way hospitals and healthcare workers do their job, which prevents front liners from feeling overworked and overwhelmed.
Countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore have tried to follow suit in the innovations of technology, whereas other heavily affected countries show no signs of adopting these measures. In the midst of differing opinions on effective or ineffective measures, the data can tell which countries have stood out in their responses to the virus.
However, it is not too late to begin our approach towards using technology for the better. After this pandemic, what is to be considered the norm will change. Technology will play a big role in the way we will adjust to life after this. Not only will we need to make up for what has been lost, but we also need to learn from this experience and better prepare ourselves in the future. Technology is not to be looked at as a mere way to pass the time, but it can literally save hundreds of lives.