Health-care professionals worldwide typically have access to the latest and greatest technology that can be used to diagnose, treat, and prevent health conditions. Innovation is often borne out of necessity, and the COVID-19 pandemic presented a clear need for technological upgrades.
COVID-19 spread rapidly due to the undetected and asymptomatic cases that made it challenging to know if someone was infected. Masks and social distancing were staples in the global fight against the pandemic, and as vaccines are being distributed, more people can gather in crowds and reunite with family and friends.
Much of the new technology introduced to the health-care industry in 2020 acted as solutions to issues frontline and essential workers were facing. Treating patients with COVID-19 was an uphill battle, but it became even more complicated when workers lacked proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and an increased risk of exposure.
Scientists and researchers had to analyze this new disease and find innovative ways to mitigate the spread. In addition, the global pandemic opened up opportunities for new digital technologies to be applied in the health-care industry.
3 Innovations Combating COVID-19
Any disease that can be transmitted easily requires careful safety precautions for workers on the frontline. It took months to understand the virus and to make the necessary adjustments to the health-care system. Many public and private organizations, especially in the biopharmaceutical industry, worked in tandem to deliver safer PPE, COVID-19 testing kits, and IV fluids, for example.
While some experts were working on developing a safe, accessible vaccine to distribute, others focused their efforts on finding solutions to the issues that made it challenging to diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19.
Let’s take a closer look at the digital health innovations that helped combat the coronavirus.
3D-Printed Personal Protective Equipment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a COVID-19 tracker that shows how many health worker cases there are in the United States. It’s important to note that medical workers were already vulnerable to exposure, but it made it much more challenging to adequately protect themselves without limited access to PPE.
3D printing is not a new concept, but its application to the medical field was extremely valuable during the pandemic. Masks, face shields, and even makeshift ventilators were produced on a massive scale, which improved protection for the essential workers treating patients. As a result, there was an immediate need for PPE, and 3D printing served as a viable solution.
2. Virtual Reality Interactions
Virtual reality (VR) became a helpful tool during the pandemic for medical professionals and patients alike. For example, doctors could implement VR into their diagnostic processes, allowing them to view the damage to the lungs caused by the coronavirus.
Another application for VR in the health-care sector is teaching nurses and other health-care staff about best PPE practices while still following social distancing mandates. Graduating nurses also were able to take home VR devices to engage in a remote learning experience. There are many applications in this space, and we’ll likely see more widespread use of VR in the medical world.
3. Smart Thermometers
Temperature is a key indicator when reviewing the symptoms of coronavirus. Running a fever and experiencing chills is one of the most common symptoms, and using a thermometer is a guaranteed way to monitor temperature.
Thermometers were in high demand while the pandemic was at its peak. Kinsa Health is at the forefront of thermometer tech with its smart thermometer. Their product can connect to an app on Androids or iPhones and deliver patients real-time data regarding their temperature.
In addition to helping the general public, Kinsa aggregates anonymous user data to then share with first responders, pharmacies, vaccine distributors, and local region news stations, so they’re aware of COVID-19 spikes in their area.
Without technology, the end of the pandemic would still be out of sight. These innovations played a significant role in reducing the number of cases of the coronavirus. With new technology, it’s even possible to make medical manufacturing greener, which helps create a more sustainable health-care industry.
A Post-Pandemic Future
2020 proved to be a tumultuous year for everyone, especially those who work in the health-care sector. Thankfully, new technologies allowed health-care professionals to work diligently to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. These innovations and many other health-care technologies will likely be here for the foreseeable future.
Jane is the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers topics in green technology, energy and environmental sustainability.