The emergence of the Coronavirus and the subsequent panic it has unleashed throughout the world reminds us of something: epidemics are far from being a thing of the past. On the contrary, as the World Health Organization has stated, “We are continuously learning about the unpredictable powers of nature.” This is especially true in our hyper urbanized and globalized world.
Increased population and mobility have not only allowed cities to flourish and people to move around like any other period of human history, they have also opened the possibility for diseases to spread in a way never seen before. While medicine has advanced, throughout the world people remain vulnerable to epidemics, or the rapid spread of infectious diseases. Given the circumstances, it is worth asking, is there anything we can do? Luckily, there is.
We will never be able to know everything about infectious diseases as long as they keep evolving. New diseases will always show up and old diseases will continue to appear every once in a while. However, we can act fast to prevent plagues from spreading any further. Even better, we can continuously monitor the environment to prevent outbreaks in the first place.
In order to do this it is necessary to have accurate real-time information that allows the right decisions to be made. Only by having accurate and reliable information can diseases be contained and acted upon in a timely manner. MedTech apps can play a major role in making this happen.
MedTech apps for detecting and fighting epidemics that wish to create value for its users need to focus on three key aspects: detection, informed decision making, and communication. Only by doing so will it be possible for MedTech apps to help build stronger health systems.
It is impossible to know exactly when and where an epidemic will occur or spread. Nonetheless, it is possible for researchers and epidemiologists to predict this if they have accurate real-time information on symptoms and other variables. As a result, there is a great potential for MedTech apps that are able to collect reliable medical data on infectious diseases while making it easily available.
Having the relevant information at hand in real-time allows health agents to be prepared in case of an epidemic outburst. The faster the information can be collected and shared, the faster an epidemic can be dealt with. Thus, surveillance becomes a desired feature. This is useful not only as a means to control existing epidemics but also as a way to prevent them in the first place.
Apps for epidemics should make it easy for users to share and register their data. This poses the challenge of collecting relevant data without becoming too complicated for users. The better the UX/UI design of an app, the better the accessibility for everyone. This is very important, particularly in communities where specialized medical knowledge is scarce. The easier an epidemic health app is to use, the stronger its potential to detect epidemics.
At the same time, these apps should guarantee the data’s reliability. The potential to predict epidemics and how they spread can only be as good as the quality of the data being used. Therefore, it is very important that a mechanism to validate the quality of the information being used is in place. Such a mechanism could consist of a revision process by authorized medical practitioners. By doing this the risk of a false alarm is reduced while at the same time improving the possibility of detecting propagation patterns.
The detection of patterns is a key feature to consider. There is a great potential to do this through machine learning. By using the power of AI to detect epidemics MedTech apps can increase the accuracy of their predictions while automating an otherwise difficult task.
Lastly, detection requires being able to report data considering that many faraway places have poor connectivity. It is necessary to figure out how to be able to share information when connection issues exist, otherwise there is a risk of having outdated information.
Informed Decision Making
Apps for epidemics need to help the different agents involved in the health ecosystem to make informed decisions. This requires some of the same aspects mentioned above. Additionally, it also requires easy to use tools for analyzing how an epidemic evolves.
These tools need to be able to process large amounts of data. By doing so, apps can guarantee that many inputs are used in order to make better decisions. Having a considerable amount of data and not being able to use it is of no use.
Ease of use is also desired. Although a health professional is the type of user who will get the most out of these apps, an ordinary individual should also be able to know what is going on in order to act accordingly.
Data visualization tools are definitely something to consider for these apps. This can facilitate the understanding of large amounts of information. A great way to do this is through location features that allow users to map how epidemics evolve. The apps that can easily show how an epidemic evolves will surely outpace competitors.
Lastly, these apps should be as accurate as possible. In MedTech, lacking the proper accuracy levels can put at risk the lives of patients or tarnish trust.
This aspect is particularly important for apps to consider in order to strengthen health systems. Good communication amongst users can strengthen prevention and help stop propagation. By sharing reliable information in a timely manner users can be better informed.
In times when false information seems to be everywhere, it is necessary for users to be able to discern what information is real. This is one of the major challenges to overcome. It is extremely important to fight infodemic, the rapid spread of all types of information. By focusing on communication, apps can help governments, private institutions and individuals reduce communication risks. In this way, apps can help anticipate or contain diseases.
It is necessary for users to be able to filter out the noise. On one hand, an excess of information can also have a negative impact if users cannot identify what really matters. On the other hand, misinformation can be terrible if it eventually turns into panic. In general, information exchange should make it easy for users to be able to find reliable ways to prevent contagion.
Some Final Considerations
Great potential exists for MedTech that wishes to help fight epidemics, but the challenges are huge. The complexity of understanding how a given epidemic propagates is a major challenge to overcome. Before we see multi-epidemic detection apps it is most likely that specific disease apps appear. Only as the latter become stronger will we see more robust apps that can detect various types of diseases.
Developing epidemic detection apps will also require interdisciplinary teams that can work across knowledge from various disciplines. At Koombea we have a talented team of professionals from various backgrounds that can move easily across disciplines in order to understand how an app should work. We focus on understanding user’s needs in order to deliver high-quality apps that comply with healthcare industry regulations such as HIPAA, no matter the level of complexity it demands.
The apps that take into consideration the aspects discussed throughout this post will surely stay ahead.
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