An international research working group indicates that mobile health-related technology, like wearable sensors, and automated communication tracking, can support COVID-19 patient monitoring at home and can also be used to detect and predict the risk of coronavirus in people who are suspected to be free of infection. At least at the beginning of the pandemic, there was little awareness as to whether humans had any immunity to COVID-19 because it is new and because the virus is also highly infectious; if infected people have ample contact with healthy people, it spreads rapidly. Given this, the United States and numerous state and local governments introduced a series of steps earlier this year, including physical distancing and state-wide shutdowns, to help slow the spread of the virus.
These innovations placed additional pressure on industries and governments to decide whether, in the absence of a safe and efficient vaccine or antiviral treatment, there is a way to allow economic activity and increase in-person interactions without creating an unnecessary spike in COVID-19 infection rates. Technologists and others have suggested three key ways that mobile technologies can support.
Mobile technology may assist in contact tracking, aiming to curb the spread of COVID-19 by detecting people who have been in “contact” with infected people and then alerting those contacts to take reasonable measures to avoid more infections. This technique, of course, is a partial mitigation approach at best. Tracing connections does not help track infections that could have been caused by asymptomatic carriers or carriers that do not report having COVID-19. Contact tracing, however, may be one instrument that helps jurisdictions step away from shutdowns and physical distance by recognizing a group of people who need to be quarantined.
The unfortunate difficulties with “traditional” contact tracing are that it is problem to scale and time-consuming, and memory and other human factors, such as the ability to identify potential contacts to warn them of their potential exposure, are often subject to vicissitudes. And this is where the debate reaches mobile technologies.
Usually, labor-intensive interview and tracing process can be programmed by mobile apps, saving workforce and time. Second, and more dramatically, technology can be used to “identify unknown community contacts,” which is also known as “proximity tracking.” This second usage takes advantage of the fact that people usually bring mobile devices to connect with other mobile devices, making it possible for specific devices to store near “contacts” so that they can be uncovered.
Considering these potential advantages, it is unsurprising that numerous countries have announced or adopted contact tracing apps or other app-based applications to help track efforts. “There is currently no comprehensive federal contact tracing system in the United States, but the CDC has been “conducting a landscape review and evaluation of contact tracing methods; developing recommendations for preliminary tools for piloting tracing in areas with minimal COVID-19 introduction; and collaborating with public health departments, health associations, academic institutions, non-professional institutions;
States have also implemented a variety of policies. For example, with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Critical Strategies, New York State has partnered to initiate a contact tracing initiative to be implemented in collaboration with New Jersey and Connecticut. For contact tracing purposes, some states have already leveraged mobile technologies and networks or even developed their contact tracing software, and others are reportedly considering doing so.
Fast response (QR) codes and Passports for digital “immunity.”
A second approach is the use of mobile technologies to resolve the COVID-19 crisis using code-readable Tags that identify the user’s or user’s characteristics. There are highly varied potential uses of such codes. For instance, to help with contact tracing, they can be used to monitor people’s presence at specific locations. Or the codes can act as “digital passports” to demonstrate that people are free of symptoms or approved to return to work.
Some countries, such as Singapore and New Zealand, are already using QR code technologies to fix COVID-19.10. Also, South Korea has implemented QR codes as symptom-free electronic passports.11 And on June 10, South Korea needed “high-risk places” for COVID-19, including bars, clubs, and other entertainment, after finding that a simple sign-in system was not comprehensive.
Systems for Health Screening, Tracking, and Warning
A third way to help mobile technology is to promote health screening, to track, and to alert, while experts continue to examine the effect of such uses. These mobile technologies can be used in combination with wearables and contactless kiosks and are reasonably straightforward.
Indeed, these technologies are becoming increasingly widespread due to government requirements for symptom screening and the pace with which such technologies can be implemented. Many state and local governments now mandate or suggest that organizations perform regular symptom screenings before workers reach a physical place of work.15 To simplify the task, companies faced with deciding how to enforce such guidance are increasingly searching for mobile technology.
Author Bio: Jignesh Vaghasiya is the CEO at Universal Stream Solution. Universal Stream Solution is a mobile app development company in Atlanta (http://www.universalstreamsolution.com/). That helps startups to enterprise companies in mobile & web technology.