The current pandemic has directly transformed our lives and the communities around us. The outbreak has contributed to disruptions in schooling, economic withdrawals and stressed hospital systems. However, with all of this, the pandemic does have its silver lining: the widespread advancement of telehealth, which has helped mitigate the spread of the virus by reducing unnecessary hospital visits and ensuring millions have access to real time medical providers.
However, to ensure the continuity of telehealth in the future, there are certain conditions that must be met in order to take full advantage of the benefits and to guarantee long-term delivery of telehealth services. Such conditions include, accessibility to high-speed broadband, new fraud detection methods and nationwide interoperability.
Critical need for high-speed broadband networks for telehealth delivery
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that more than 18 million Americans lack access to high-speed broadband networks. This figure has far-reaching impacts on the more vulnerable populations, such as individuals with medical conditions or those that live in areas with limited access to quality healthcare.
Having access to high-speed broadband has become a prerequisite for telehealth use, patients need access to reliable internet that supports high-speed transmissions that can enable remote healthcare services and features such as virtual office visits.
A specific area of broadband expansion that is critical to healthcare delivery will be the availability of 5G, which in turn enables mobile phones to be the prime point of contact between patients and providers. The latency and resiliency offered by 5G networks will enable and accelerate the use of more reliable virtual connections.
New fraud detection methods
While telehealth facilitates medical services, it also opens the door for malicious activities and abuse to the system. Given that telehealth is a new medium for delivering healthcare, there are areas that may be more susceptible to fraud than others and may be unique and unknown to federal agencies, making them harder to detect and prevent.
Since the pandemic has increased patient demand for remote care, new fraud detection systems can also provide improved methods for data collection, and service coding.
Importance of nationwide interoperability
Physicians today should be able to directly share medical information between each other and their patients in order to improve the quality of medical services and avoid redundancy. National efforts in the US have been made to enable the interoperability between different healthcare providers, however they have not seen that much success. Specifically the lack of interoperability between the different electronic systems across the healthcare delivery system is a main reason for the delay in the reporting of COVID-19 test results. In order to enhance the quality of the virtual visits, doctors need to have access to patients’ medical records and data such as medications, lab results, imaging data, and hospitalizations.
The pandemic has caused fundamental changes towards data exchange. Given certain circumstances, patients are much more inclined to receive their test results through online patient portals. Thus, It is now in the providers best interest to willingly share clinical data with public health officials and other providers as part of their community efforts in fighting the pandemic and advancing the telehealth field.
Google CEO pledges $150 million in COVID-19 Fight
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced early last week on Twitter that the U.S.-based tech mammoth Google will be “providing more than $150 million to promote vaccine education and equitable distribution and making it easier to find locally relevant information.”
Pichai also added that Google spaces were to serve as vaccination sites.
The search engine exec poured out a detailed blog post in which he highlighted one of Google’s fundamental roles throughout the pandemic – providing trusted information to all matters COVID related and how Google will be making a difference.
Of the $150 million, two-thirds will be allocated in add grants to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and non-profits around the globe. While the other $50 million will be channeled into partnerships with public health agencies that work with underserved communities.
When the pandemic first broke out, Google rolled up their sleeves and began crafting pandemic tech solutions; starting with the $170 million Grow with Google Small Business Fund where more than $53 million have been granted to help struggling and underserved small businesses owned by women or minorities.
Add to that the all the efforts that the Google CEO and his fleet are doing when it comes to helping people make informed and safer decisions.
By taking a micro-solution approach, they added COVID-19 Layer – a feature that reveals critical information of a specific area and how it is trending. And for the macro-solution; COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports – a nifty report created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users that have enabled the location history that displays the change in visits to places such as grocery stores and parks.
Tech rivals Apple also collaborated with Google on the Exposure Notification technology, an API that can enable apps created by public health agencies to work seamlessly between iPhone and Android ecosystems.
The news comes following rival tech giant’s move in working with the U.S. on dispatching vaccine treatments; this should come as no surprise as the Google CEO and other tech leaders have a tremendous responsibility to bear when it comes to treating the pandemic with technology.
Yelp users can now review COVID-19 safety measures for establishments
Crowd-source business review platform, Yelp, has added a new feature that allows users the ability to review COVID-19 safety measures for various establishments.
The addition of this new feature reflects the company’s attempt at adapting to current health circumstances as well as acknowledging people’s highest concern in terms of visiting eateries and establishments.
Initially, Yelp had aimed at becoming the go-to restaurant advertising hub in the U.S., but later failed to hit the mark in terms of profitability, which has pushed it to transform over the years to diversify its features and offers.
Similar to how users recommend places as “good for groups,” “romantic,” or “good for kids,” users will soon be able to review COVID-19 safety measures with options such as “heated outdoor seating,” “1:1 session available,” and “disposable or contactless menu.”
Currently, the only option to share feedback regarding social distancing measures and mask wearing.
Yelp’s business model consisted of monetizing the business of restaurant recommendations, as it sought to become the make or breaker of a restaurant’s reputation, and for a while, it was just that.
However, competitors would use Yelp’s large customers base to sabotage their opponents with fake reviews, and in turn, flood their own review pages with unearned positive feedback.
Yelp responded to this with a software that detects fake or malicious comments and reviews and deletes them as many social platforms do with their comments.
According to Yelp, the platform enacts a filtering software that worms out fake or targeted reviews, based on reliability, user activity, and the overall quality of the review as a whole.
No rants or raves allowed, and if the user has recently installed Yelp and has very few active reviews, it could be flagged. clarify
It is worth mentioning that the problem of fake reviews could become even more dangerous with the addition of their new “review COVID-19 safety measures” feature, since customers are becoming increasingly cautious, especially during outings.
Similarly, precautions have been taken to assure that no establishment’s reputation is destroyed by a bad health and safety review.
- The review is restricted to one branch of the franchise
- Only users with a verified Yelp account may leave a review
- Feedback is displayed on the app based on recent activity (within the previous 28 days)
With the world still gripped by the pandemic, people keenly search for safer places while avoiding high risk and density locations. This kind of review system seems like the logical next step during the pandemic, as technology aims to answer those very same questions.
UK Hospitals Explore Blockchain Tech Remedies
With tech putting its best foot forward when it comes to battling the pandemic, the fight for widespread vaccination is another battlefront that has also commenced and is in it’s prime right now.
For the battle of widespread immunizations, U.K. National Health Services (NHS) have taped blockchain tech as part of their arsenal against COVID-19. The NHS will be using the same underlying system for cryptocurrencies like the infamous Bitcoin and popular Ether in monitoring supply and cold storage of two hospitals in the UK.
Out of the three vaccines in circulation right now, the one that is codeveloped by U.S pharma-mammoth Pfizer and its German partner BioNtech has some serious storage issues.
It must be stored at temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) – certainly not your typical winter temperature, these temperatures are below freezing.
Once the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is out of its storage unit and begins to thaw, it is only effective for another five days at 2-8 degrees Celsius.
All these factors render as major issues that blockchain tech manages to successfully address. And it is no surprise to see another use of blockchain in the health tech segment.
The two hospitals, in Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick in central England have teamed up with Hedera Hashgraph which bring their blockchain networks to the table. Noteworthy to mention is the powerful companies that back Hedera, amongst which are: Boeing, IBM, LG, and Google.
The other partner is asset-monitoring company Everyware that will provide the software needed to constantly track the vaccine’s temperature around the clock.
The solution is powered by Hedera’s blockchain system and Everyware’s sensors while the NHS deploys a distributed ledger to better accurately track the cold-storage equipment that holds the vaccines.
Distributed ledgers act as decentralized and synchronized digital systems for sharing data, and are popular for their large immunity to problems that may be introduced by human error.
This tech jargon further illustrates how the intricacies of blockchain technology can be hard to grasp even for tech enthusiasts, but the growing practicality and prevalence of this technology is plain to see.
With sources indicating that worldwide spending on blockchain solutions projected to grow to an estimated $15.9 billion by 2023 we are bound to see a plethora of new technologies and developments that will certainly allow for a more connected and smarter tomorrow.
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