The good (perhaps best) news is that a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is coming. The not-so-good news is that there are still likely months to go before a sizeable enough percentage of the world’s population is actually inoculated. Only then can we return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
This means the next months are still critical to help contain the virus and deliver vital health care services and products to treat new cases. Thankfully, healthcare technology—and a functional understanding of how to harness it—has helped soften the blow of COVID-19. Even though a vaccine is upon us, healthcare technology will still be paramount in this fight, especially as the world transitions to the distribution phase.
As such, technology professionals will have an important role to play in developing new healthcare platforms. At the same time, they’ll work on maintaining or enhancing those that currently exist. Without making light of this worldwide crisis, the tech space will likely experience massive career growth as new tools continue the fight against COVID.
With this in mind, let’s examine some of the healthcare technology tools used in the battle against the coronavirus.
District Health Information Software (DHIS2) is a national health information software program for the monitoring, storage, and analysis of routine health data across more than 70 countries. The program is most commonly deployed for mapping and other survey activities to essentially create a warehouse or wholesale center for data analysis – though it has recently been considered a ‘final mile’ solution health care facility logistics.
The DHIS2 is more or less a massive U-Store facility based on 3 data models:
- Single events (or line-listing of data sets)
- Longitudinal tracking of patients or entities over a specified period of time.
At the core of the DHIS2 is an Android-based app to help contract tracers, laboratory professionals, epidemiologists, and coordinated response teams capture critical health and patient data, analyze complex data sets, create detailed reporting, and engage in case monitoring and follow-up.
The great benefit of DHIS2 in the fight against COVID-19 is that users can access and track the information flow and changes to a patient’s medical, residency, symptom, or other related-histories to remain one step ahead of the movement of the virus throughout communities. With both local and cloud storage options, users can interface and share information from DHIS2 from anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye.
The Surveillance, Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS) is an open-sourced mobile eHealth system that organizes, facilitates, and analyzes disease control and outbreak management to better equip response teams in combating health COVID-19.
According to the Central for Disease Control, SORMAS “aims to improve prevention and control of communicable diseases, particularly in resource-poor settings, and the system is being designed by those involved in public health surveillance and disease control.”
This no-cost software complies with the highest standards of data and patient information privacy and security, good scientific practice, and open access policy, which means users can interface with it without fear of data breaches or other digital faults in the intake, storage, and retrieval of critical information.
The important value proposition with SORMAS is that it houses disease-specific diagnostic standards, case definitions, and containment procedures as outlined by the World Health Organization. In essence, SORMAS functions as an encyclopedia for the vast majority of scientifically documented diseases. In this way, response teams gain an in-depth understanding of the enemy they’re facing.
This turn-key COVID-19 response tool is hosted in local, cloud, and Docker applications, and requires fluency with MySQL, Java, PostgreSQL, and HTML5 for backend operation.
A critical outbreak investigation tool for use in the field during public health emergencies, Go.Data basically equates to a private eye’s bag of crime scene investigation gadgets. Go.Data’s capabilities and functions include those for case or outbreak investigation, contact tracing and follow-up, visualization of outbreak chains, laboratory and testing data, and clinical outcomes. To boil it down, Go.Data is your one-stop-shop for following outbreaks from initial reporting cases to a cure.
The CDC outlines Go.Data’s primary functionality in the fight against COVID as a standard of “metadata packages for several diseases that align with WHO Surveillance Protocols around IDSR and field epi data collection, including COVID-19, Ebola and MERS. The platform is highly configurable, including flexible questionnaire builders and language tokens for translation.”
Available for use in 6 languages, Go.Data is a no-cost software package that is primarily used by contact tracers and field epidemiologists. These users deploy integrated metadata packages to help streamline surveillance guidance of an outbreak in accordance with WHO guidelines, but also to engage in extensive data collection and research investigations. For example, the tool could be used for identifying and cataloging the first known COVID cases documented more than one year ago.
Coders and technology professionals interfacing with Go.Data need high-levels of fluency with deploying and maintaining nodeJS/mongoDB solutions on Windows/Linux. This includes experience configuring network and firewall settings, alongside setting up load balanced environments. In addition, experience of writing code against RESTful API interfaces is also an important value add for this software.
Designed for a variety of public health officials who don’t have the knack for integrated technology, Epi Info is a public domain suite of interconnected software tools for use on a global scale. Epi Info enables fast and efficient distribution of simple data entry forms, alongside database construction and management, outbreak mapping, and visualization of information.
As far as applications for use against the COVID-19 crisis, the CDC outlines Epi Info’s place as used for “outbreak investigations; for developing small to mid-sized disease surveillance systems; as analysis, visualization, and reporting (AVR) components of larger systems; and in the continuing education in the science of epidemiology and public health analytic methods at schools of public health around the world.”
While Epi Info is not implicitly a turn-key COVID-19 application, its value proposition resides in that its surveillance forms can be obtained from the Epi Info help desk and customized to meet local, state, and federal regulations and compliances.
Epi Info operates on a variety of hosting platforms such as local, cloud, web, and mobile. As such, coders and other backend users must be proficient with C#, web tools developed in Java, and mobile tools developed with Angular JS.
How these tools help combat COVID?
What do these tools have in common? What unites each of these somewhat disparate solutions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic? To put it mildly, these pieces of technology and the developers and coders behind them are giving public health officials the gift of speed, efficiency, and communication, each of which is critically important in combating any disease outbreak, but particularly one that moves as rapidly and quietly as this one.
Whether through the organization of complex data sets; visualization of information; analysis of voluminous amounts of material; or the ability to monitor and track the way an outbreak moves across a region, technology is giving health care professionals a leg-up in combating and eliminating the worst global health crisis in a generation.
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