Heathcare and Tech Together: The Fight Against a Pandemic


GBM Executive

Practice Leader

The avalanche of coronavirus or COVID-19 has emerged as one of the darkest events in the history of mankind. An outbreak which started as an epidemic in China has now proliferated to several countries and transformed into a pandemic. As per the latest figures on the coronavirus situation published by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 697,244 confirmed cases and 33,257 confirmed deaths across 204 countries.

The governments, medical fraternity and scientists have joined hands together to fight the current situation, toiling hard to treat the patients, save the lives and most importantly, find a cure for coronavirus. The health and technology sector have also ramped up their efforts and collaborated together more than ever towards spurring new tools and solutions in this direction.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Economy

COVID-19 has not only endangered human lives but also brought the economy to a standstill and its ripple effect might make the economic recovery challenging for the next few years.

Stock markets have crashed, central banks have slashed the interest rates, countries have put travel restrictions, factories and offices have either slowed down or shut down, currencies and commodities have lost their value, there is voluminous pressure on the existing resources of countries and the demand of international goods and services has declined. In a nutshell, COVID-19 has caused direct disruption of the entire global supply chain and this reflects in the following statistics.

  • According to a report by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organisation of 36 member countries, global GDP growth is estimated to slow down from already weak 2.9% in 2019 to 2.4% in 2020.
  • UN’s trade and development agency, UNCTAD predicts a loss of $1 trillion to the global economy.
  • A recent article published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) states that a recession is likely to hit the economy and will be more severe than the global financial crisis in 2020.
  • The NY Times on 24th of March, quoted Phillip Thomas Professor of risk management at Bristol University as saying that a 6.4% fall in GDP could cost more lives than the virus.

The overwhelming message is we need to cure the virus and protect the economy. Technology has a significant role to play in both.

COVID-19 Data and Analytics img 

How is Technology being used to fight this pandemic

  • Business Continuance

There is only good news when it comes to technology being the business enabler in these times. The answer in its simplest form is CEO’s must embrace a technologically innovative mindset to reinvent the business. The technology is not the inhibitor it exists today. The number one problem for traditional business will be to reach their existing and new customer base with their existing infrastructure. Fortunately the old doesn’t need to be replaced by the new, it just needs to be augmented. The technological enabler is something called microservices.

Modernized Platforms like LinuxONE contain the entire stack that enables businesses to respond in a fast manner to changing market conditions. In a traditional business, select the most imperative business functions that ensure business continuance and move those onto the modernised and containerised platform. The technology allows you to run your existing business processes in this container but it also allows you to build a modern digital channels to reach your customers, most importantly it allows you to do this securely. A collapsed economy will have broader impacts than the virus, proven enterprise ready technology is accessible now, let’s use it.

  • Artificial Intelligence

AI has emerged as one of the key saviour technologies to combat coronavirus. Several AI-powered solutions are deployed across countries.

– China has developed a colour-coded health rating system which tracks its citizens’ travel and medical history, and whether they need to be quarantined or allowed entry in public places. Robots are managing frontline work at hospitals, sterilizing hospitals and streets, and delivering food and supplies; autonomous/unmanned vehicles are enabling movement of people and staff; and drones are making deliveries of medical supplies. Thermal-imaging goggles help police detect people with fevers.

 – South Korea is utilizing drones to spray disinfectants and has developed virus-centric apps to track people’s movements and health status.

– Many countries have incorporated thermal scans, thermometers and cameras to screen the temperature of travellers.

– WHO and country governments have launched WhatsApp chatbots to provide accurate and real-time updates about the corona, and field queries of people.

  • Geolocation Data

Facebook, Google, Apple and other tech giants are actively working with the US government to provide a solution that can harness geolocation data to spot risk-prone areas and vulnerable populations. These tech firms are also making attempts to curtail the spread of misleading and inaccurate information.

  • Cloud-Applications

The lockouts, quarantines and the need to maintain social distancing has compelled people to switch to online entertainment, virtual classes/tutorials and work from home/remote working options to remove their boredom as well as maintain their professional productivity.

Netflix, Slack, Webex and many other cloud-applications have gained momentum among people for live streaming, video, chat and remote collaboration amidst coronavirus.

Many companies are allowing their employees to utilize Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)policy and login on personal devices at home to work. For a number of years, many companies have a well-formulated BYOD policy, especially for those working flexible hours or in remote teams. However, it is only now due to coronavirus that BYOD has emerged as an integral working policy across the world, leading to an unprecedented peak in its use.

With more people working at home currently and probably for many weeks to come, they also need device management support round the clock. Solutions like IBM’s MaaS360 are turning out to be a valuable here. MaaS360 enables employees to use work technologies on their personally-owned devices and work remotely. At the same time, it ensures that organizations can monitor all such BYOD devices from one place, support content collaboration and keep their data secure.

  • Supercomputers

Supercomputers are being harnessed like never before to fight COVID-19 pandemic. These supercomputers are designed to perform high-level of calculations and statistical modelling at a lightning speed which usually would take months or years for standard computing platforms.

IBM’s Summit and SIERRA supercomputers are ranked as world’s most powerful and are built on small IBM Power Systems AC922’s that contain Power Processors and Nvidia GPU’s. They have been able to study 8000 different molecules that could interact with the virus and able to identify 77 small-molecule drug potential compounds that could be used to develop a new treatment or vaccine.

So far, technology has been instrumental in handling corona situation to a significant extent but that’s not enough! There is an urgent need to speed up the efforts to address disease control and cure, patient care, remote medical care for quarantined people, information dissemination, and medical staff and public safety.

Governments across the world are reaching out to health tech firms and seeking their support to combat this battle on a technology front. Governments are taking every possible measure to tackle the situation but private sectors, start-ups and citizens also need to join hands in every manner possible and fulfill their responsibilities as is the need of the hour.

These are indeed rough times for the mankind, but we need to remember that this too shall pass. Nothing is permanent. We need to stay hopeful, focus on things that we can control and provide every little support that our governments and communities need.

We as GBM, would like to reiterate our commitment to supporting your business throughout this pandemic and beyond. We realize that in this time of crisis, it is critical that we make it possible for you to continue your operations and help you respond to the unique demands you may be facing.

We will surely get through this together. Till then, stay safe, stay at home, stay positive and embrace the technology.

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