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Online Initiatives against COVID-19

Mounir Jamil

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Online Initiatives against COVID19

For those of us who aren’t scientists or healthcare workers, the pandemic might bring about feelings of helplessness. Of course, we can play our part by staying inside, maintaining good hygiene and taking our pre-cautions. But is there something more we can do? Thanks to social media, the internet, and big data-driven analytics, there are a number of online initiatives against COVID-19 that anyone can participate in. These initiatives are powered by data and show how utilizing crowdsourcing to crunch data can help mitigate the spread.

  • Google’s Kaggle, the crowdsourced data science portal can offer plenty of learnings if you are familiar with data science. As well as live datasets from WHO collated by Johns Hopkins University and a library of 29,000 published articles can put your data science skills to work by taking on tasks like predicting the spread of the virus, how long it will affect parts of the world, and the impact of other factors on the overall statistics.
  • Folding@Home is a crowdsourced project that utilizes donated computing power in simulating protein folding, as well as tackling other medical data problems. Since the outbreak, they started using spare power of idle computers in people’s houses to crunch through data, trying to identify proteins in the virus that can be targeted with medicine. To get involved with this online initiative against COVID-19 all you need to do is download the client and run it on your machine.
  • Foldit is another site dedicated to crowdsourcing modeling of protein folding, and it also offers an online initiative against COVID-19. With foldit, you can take part in a number of puzzles that are fun, educational, and also help in making important scientific advances. A current ongoing challenge involves designing a protein with anti-inflammatory properties that assist in treating patients whose immune systems have triggered excess inflammation.
  • For the people who don’t have any spare computing power, another alternative is donating their data. Researchers at King’s College London have developed the C-19 Symptom Tracker app that collects anonymized information to help correlate symptoms and diagnosed cases of the virus. By establishing which symptoms indicate a need for testing, the app helps ensure people can self-isolate at the right time and prevent spread.
  • Another online initiative against COVID-19 is the Coronavirus Tech Handbook project, led by Edward Saperia. This first started as a collection of medical information that was aimed at doctors and healthcare professionals, however it quickly grew into an accessible compendium of useful information from hygiene to coping at home working and schooling.

These are all great examples of online initiatives against COVID-19 that wouldn’t have been possible in previous outbreaks, simply because the necessary infrastructure to collect and process data wasn’t available yet. Hopefully, when the coronavirus is under control, the next challenge will be to develop new solutions that will prevent a future pandemic like this one.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Top 3 digital health technologies post- pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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Top 3 digital health technologies post- pandemic

It’s certain that the current pandemic will eventually come to an end. However, some of the digital health technologies we’ve adopted along the way have proven to be indispensable, and some technologies may not be so prominent after the crisis.

Here are top 3 digital health technologies that are likely to stick around post- pandemic.

1. Disinfectant robots

Ultraviolet (UV) lights, more specifically UV-C is a well-established digital disinfecting method that is commonly used in the healthcare world. It works by altering the virus’ genetic material, that way UV lights make sure that virus doesn’t replicate. However, if exposed to human skin, it can lead to sunburns, irritations, and in the worst case, skin cancer.

All that aside, the benefits of UV-C in effectively disinfecting hospitals is seriously attracting robotics engineers and healthcare workers alike. Companies such as YouiBot are reimagining and redesigning their current robots into UV disinfectant ones. Danish company UVD Robots has shipped hundreds of their existing disinfectant robots around the world during the pandemic.

In addition to saving valuable time and decreasing the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, these robots will also prevent hospitals from getting infections.

2. AI for predicting future pandemics

In an ideal tech world, AI can predict a viral outbreak weeks, if not months in advance. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal tech world, but the good news is that we can work towards forecasting such a system with the help of current technologies.

AI company BlueDot has issued early first warnings, after scrutinizing massive data sets from news, airlines, and animal disease outbreaks. Their algorithim managed to detect a certain trend which Epidemiologists later analyzed further to confirm an outbreak.

But BlueDot is the exception and not the rule, so we must reverse the situation in order to better handle the next public health crisis. Given the massive predictive power that AI brings to the healthcare sector, the proper authorities should utilize its full potential and help in making it more commonplace in hospital settings.

3. Remote care via smartphones 

It’s a sad reality that the pandemic kick-started telemedicine for mainstream adoption. Before the crisis, only 1 in 10 US patients used telemedicine services, the number has now increased up to 158% in the same country.

With lockdowns enforced globally, people are utilizing the power of their smartphones for their mental and physical wellbeing. These new digital health technologies greatly reduce the risk of cross infection all while offering patients quality care from the comfort of their own homes

These solutions greatly reduce the risk of cross-infection while offering patients quality care from the comfort of their homes. What’s more, they prove that face-to-face doctor-patient visits are unnecessary. A Global Markets Insights report from April this year, projects that the telemedicine market value will reach $175.5 billion by 2026, indicating the need for remote care in the coming years.

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MedTech

The glaring problem with COVID-19 vaccine deployment

Adnan Kayyali

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The glaring problem with COVID-19 vaccine deployment

As most of us already know, creating a vaccine is only half the challenge of beating the pandemic. Getting 7 billion people vaccinated is a colossal undertaking, the scale of which has never been seen in history. How will the world manage and sustain COVID-19 vaccine deployment, and ensure equitable access to everyone?

It is not an easy task, and many people in positions of responsibility may have to make some difficult decisions. In short, we will not have enough vaccines for everyone by the end of this year, even if a particular vaccine candidate is deemed adequate.

In a document by the CDC published as a rough skeletal guideline, four categories of people were prioritized with newly produced or procured vaccine doses. This is to strategically use the scarce resources available to minimize the loss of life and maximize equity.

The document classified four categories of people that would receive the vaccine at different times according to a number of factors:

Category 1:

– High risk healthcare workers. First responders

– High risk older adults in congregate or crowded settings

Category 2:

Workers in critical industries and those living in an environment of high risk such as prison.

Category 3:

Young adults and children, and workers of essential industries that were not included in phase 2.

Category 4:

Everyone else.

In an Audio Interview “Guidelines for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment”, Eric J. Rubin, M.D., Ph.D. concurred. “We do this in medicine all the time”, he said “in that we plan to treat everybody but those who get sicker are the ones who need the treatment first, while we are scaling up or making any assessment of deploying a treatment”.

This task becomes more difficult in areas were the data on who needs what is scarce. Numerous collectives and institutions however are finding ways to guide their communities using localized data tracking, remote monitoring and some forms of contact tracing. They will be able to identify where and how many people require vaccination, how many vaccines are available for the taking, when more is coming, etc.

Having a clear picture is essential for any major endeavor to succeed, and a type of “communal immunity” can be achieved, to break the back of community transmission” as Rubin put it.

The issue of Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment isn’t when the vaccine is coming, but “who gets it first”. The answer given by the CDC seems to be a good one, from the perspective of the scientist, who have accepted the reality that vaccine equity is no easy task, and hard decisions must be made.

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MedTech

Professional networking amid the pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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Professional networking amid the pandemic

As the current pandemic lingers on, we see the effects come into full force. The pandemic has changed the way we learn, work and socialize.

The pandemic has had its fair share of effects on professional networking, as most of us are currently stuck at home with limited ways to make new professional connections, top CXOs and junior-mid level professionals are joining committed and specialized platforms to connect and talk with each other online. Some of these platforms include: CoffeMug, Grab Chai, and Lunchclub.

These AI-enabled platforms call themselves “AI Superconnectors” and are the latest trend in professional networking. In essence, they are matchmakers that employ an AI algorithm to set up one-one-one meetings that are based on users’ inserted objectives, interests, and preferred time slots. AI then connects the users on email through a concept known as “warm intros” and sends them through a calendar invite that is usually accompanied by a link for a video call.

Unlike LinkedIn, these professional networking platforms are gated communities, where a user can join only through invites from existing users or by applying on the platform to get registered. Once the person enters, users cannot simply send cold emails to one another to connect. The platform is smarter as you can only meet with one specific profile at a time. This eliminates the problem of spam messages flooding your inbox.

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