Current Healthcare Innovations to tackle the COVID19 pandemic
Countries around the world have finally come to terms with the enormity of the pandemic that the world is today fighting against. Medical teams and governments across the globe are struggling to find ways of dealing with the biggest challenge that is to flatten the curve, and subsequently bring down daily infection rate and total infected numbers finally. That may be the only chance that we may have at winning against this virus.
While we have technology at our disposal in terms of being able to stay connected with our family, friends and colleagues via calls, messages and now videos, one can't but be worried about the health of dear ones, especially aging parents who are not near us.
Everyone is worried about their elders i.e. parents and grandparents, since Corona has the highest impact on elders, and any innovation that helps us know they are doing well, remotely, would be of great help! As COVID-19 enters newer geographies, governments worldwide are grappling to put out accurate information about avoiding /diagnosing COVID-19, curb the spread of misinformation, treatment of the afflicted and so on.
India, despite its infrastructure and large population, is trying its best to combat the virus through high-decibel awareness campaigns. And for a population as big as ours, effective deployment of technology is the need of the hour. As I write this, India has already clocked over 17,000 active cases, and by the time this is published the data would have changed again.
Indian start-ups and corporates have already initiated the process of identifying core areas of expertise and developing solutions that may help India’s healthcare fraternity in their war against the virus
The challenges facing the heroes in this war
The rapid spread of the epidemic has also meant that a large community of essential service providers including the medical fraternity, law enforcement personnel, the media community and such are extremely vulnerable. Speaking specifically about the medical fraternity, the biggest challenge they are facing currently is the lack of medical grade face masks, sanitising liquid and PPE kits which leaves them under- equipped to protect themselves against the virus.
In fact, we have already seen several cases of doctors, nurses and support staff in quarantine facilities or in densely populated hotspots getting infected due to lack of the requisite protective gear.
We now have healthcare members, doctors, nursing staff and technicians now testing positive across the country. This combined with the fact that India has one of the lowest bed per person ratios has added to the burden of our healthcare infrastructure.
Is there a way that testing centers, manned by technicians and provided with technologically advanced equipment, can be operated on ground with direct online links to expert doctors who can check the symptoms for quick and effective diagnosis, and immediate treatment thereafter?
Indian start-ups and corporates have already initiated the process of identifying core areas of expertise and developing solutions that may help India’s healthcare fraternity in their war against the virus.
The most important solution that needs to be activated on a war footing is access to telemedicine. This remote format of checking symptoms and advising courses of action can ensure that individuals do not have to step outside their homes without good reason, thus also reducing crowding at COVID-19 testing centres.
In fact, it has been recorded that startups such as Practo, Portea and Lybate have seen a steep rise in people reaching out for medical assistance via their networks. This is what led the Government of India, in association with the NITI Aayog, to release a detailed set of guidelines to practise telemedicine in times of COVID-19.
There have been several initiatives by startups which enable virtual medical consultation to assess patients who have flu-like symptoms. Chatbots that can disseminate information related to coronavirus, and use of Robots and AI-driven devices in preventive aid monitoring are just some results of the initiatives that we have seen so far.
Log 9 is a company that has released a device which can completely neutralize COVID-19 and other pathogens on surfaces of masks, hospital PPE and groceries in less than 10 minutes, thus making it extremely valuable in healthcare scenarios where our medical staff is tight on protective supplies. Not just startups, but academic institutions have stepped up in this hour of need. For example, Sequoia-backed Qure.ai has partnered with Italian San Raffaele University Hospital to deploy new solutions that automatically read and interpret chest X-ray scans for COVID-19 in seconds.
Various industry members have come together to deploy technological innovations, AI driven devices and Internet of Things (IOT) to manufacture low cost masks, ventilators, cost effective scanning devices, technologies for sanitisation of large areas and contactless entry, rapid diagnostic kits and oxygenators, robots, chatbots.
Recently, the government has given a number of grants to further this. Also the Technology Development Board (TDB), a body under the Department of Science & Technology of the Government of India along with Invest India, Startup India etc have are providing grants to Indian companies in addressing protection and home-based respiratory intervention for COVID-19 patients.
Public Private Partnerships are the only way for all of us to come together to fight this and come out healthy at the other end.
In fact, there are also alternative solutions that are emerging from various players. Given the paucity of quarantine facilities across the country, long-distance trains have been converted into testing centres and quarantine facilities; private hospitals have been turned into treatment wards too. Companies have voluntarily stepped forward to mass manufacture sanitisers so that it may be accessible to a larger audience across the country, and the medical fraternity in particular.
In light of the current stress on the healthcare system in India and the widespread impact of COVID-19, gadgets, remote monitoring devices and telehealth devices appear as the perfect assistant to keeping a constant check on an individual’s basic health and vital statistics, while isolating from the world. A personalized healthcare system may be our only option to protect and save our loved ones, who may be far from us.