How Tech Innovations Are Making a Difference During Covid-19

While the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in significant loss of life and severe economic disruptions, there are still plenty of reasons to have hope during these times. One of the biggest positive elements is how technological innovations are enabling better treatment and helping people get through this crisis.

In many cases, the technology being used by businesses and organizations can save lives and help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Though we may be subjected to social distancing and other preventative measures for quite some time, knowing that technology is helping to mitigate Covid-19’s impact offers confidence and hope.

Detecting the virus.

As part of efforts to slow the spread, it should hardly be surprising that determining who is sick has been a top priority for many organizations. Everything from temperature scanners to tools that detect the presence of an airborne virus may even be necessary after society starts to open up.

As Science Daily reports, researchers in Zurich are currently adapting a system designed to measure airborne pollutants to detect the presence of COVID-19 in the air. The system will use optical and heat sensors to detect and measure the virus, and researchers hope it can be used in the future to identify and stop future epidemics.

Survey data is also being used to track the spread of the virus. Facebook has recently begun collecting survey data regarding users’ COVID-19 symptoms to help identify exposure risk for different communities. 

As Wired reports, Carnegie Mellon is using these survey results, along with data from Google surveys and search trends, doctor visits and flu testing to generate maps that highlight the spread across the country.

Providing safe and effective triaging to patients.

Hospitals are understandably concerned about diverting resources away from patients who are not in urgent need at this time. While some hospitals are reaching capacity with Covid-19 patients, other areas have allowed elective treatments to resume. 

Even with these reduced restrictions, however, there is also the concern of Covid-19 potentially spreading through hospital interactions. Many individuals in high risk groups do not want to visit a hospital where they could catch a life threatening disease.

Such concerns are illustrated in a report from conversational AI firm Hyro. An analysis of 2,000 patient conversations on Covid-19 virtual assistants found that while 56 percent of patients were interested in testing, 40 percent of these conversations revealed confusion over hospital policy changes resulting from the pandemic. When 72 percent of patients view their general practitioner as their go-to source for health information, it is easy to see how medical professionals could easily get overwhelmed by demand without the help of tools that facilitate frequently asked questions.

The demand for services and confusion surrounding Covid-19 related changes highlights the need for digital patient engagement. Remote triaging helps manage the healthcare system capacity by allowing patients to avoid unnecessary visits and improves patients’ flow. As NPR reports, such systems have actually improved treatment retention rates for individuals struggling with opioid abuse.

Meeting basic needs for vulnerable individuals.

Business-oriented technology may not be viewed as a lifesaver, but for individuals in high-risk groups who are quarantining at home, such tools make a meaningful difference. Food delivery apps like DoorDash and Postdates enable the delivery of groceries or restaurant meals. Many of these services are now implementing “contactless” delivery as an option as well.

Getting needed food is essential during any crisis. For the companies using these services, it also serves as an important tool for staying in business. Many businesses have had trouble obtaining PPP loans, so anything that allows for some sort of continued revenue is a financial lifesaver.

Remote work opportunities have also made it easier for vulnerable individuals to continue their employment at home. Virtual meetings and cloud storage aren’t new to the business world — but the current pandemic illustrates just how important they can be. 

Keeping work functioning as normally as possible can make a big difference for someone’s mental health. This is especially important in light of an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found Americans are more stressed by the coronavirus than the Great Recession. Being able to continue working relives many financial and emotional worries, which can significantly help one’s mental wellbeing.

Getting through a changing time.

We don’t know how long the coronavirus will continue to cause significant disruptions to daily life. Even after stay at home orders are lifted, many expect society to be changed as a result of everything we’ve gone through.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As these tech tools reveal, many of the innovations that help save lives and slow the spread today could prove just as beneficial in the “new normal” of the future.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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