is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC
This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
Technology and surveillance systems built upon digital health platforms are playing an integral role in supporting the public health response to outbreaks. In a recent article published in The Lancet, Whitelaw, S. et al. examined the applications of digital technology in COVID-19 pandemic planning and response.
The study found that countries that have maintained low COVID-19 per-capita mortality rates appear to share strategies that include early surveillance, testing, contact tracing, and strict quarantine and that the scale of coordination and data management required for effective implementation of these strategies has, in most successful countries, relied on adopting digital technology and integrating it into policy and healthcare.
The below are just a few examples of how digital health technologies have been identified as promising solutions to address the challenges of pandemic planning and management, and how technology has the potential to play an essential role in flattening the curve, limiting the spread of the virus, and assisting in the treatment of infected individuals.
As the first country hit by the outbreak, China introduced a range of digital solutions throughout different stages of the outbreak driven by a nationwide call from the National Health Commission. Private companies and national and local health authorities worked together to build ICT infrastructure, through aggregating and analysing data at scale, to enable the availability of virtual and/or AI-powered healthcare services.
While contact tracing, testing, and surveillance were each improved in China by data-driven technologies, a traffic-light styled ‘Health Code’ application was launched and adopted by more than 900 million individuals in order to balance the resumption of economic and social activities with public health risks.
Also, the ongoing ‘Internet + Healthcare’ strategy online consultation services were boosted during the outbreak when the National Health Commission and the National Health Security Administration took further steps to co-release a policy that removed two other practical barriers when people turn to online platforms for healthcare - the physical barrier to receiving prescription re-fill delivery and the financial barrier from timely reimbursement.
With widespread testing and digital health interventions, Germany has maintained a low per-capita mortality rate, relative to other countries, despite a high prevalence of cases. In April, Germany launched a smartwatch application that collects pulse, temperature, and sleep pattern data to screen for signs of the flu-like illness. Data from the Corona Data Donation app are presented on an online, interactive map in which authorities can assess the likelihood of COVID-19 incidence across the nation.
More recently, German health authorities launched a contact tracing smartphone app – the Corona-Warn-App - that uses short-range Bluetooth to contact people who may have been exposed to someone who contracts the coronavirus and doesn’t rely on a centralised database. Downloaded 6.5 million times within 24 hours of its launch on 15 June, the app is based on technologies with a decentralised approach and development of the programme code was continuously visible on the GitHub development platform so that experts and the public alike were able to track infection rates at any time. .