News about a deadly virus that appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019 (now called “coronavirus disease 2019”, or “COVID-19”) is everywhere as the number of cases rises.
As of February 23, there have been 35 confirmed cases in the United States, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And it is not even known how many people are infected.
More cases in the U.S. are likely to be identified in the coming days, and providers and hospitals may not know exactly how to react to the new challenges. There is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it.
“On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.”
Healthcare IT vendors are updating their software to better identify patterns and potential signs of problems. Vendors such as Epic, Athenahealth and intersystems are rolling out software updates to help providers better detect and monitor potential cases.
“Epic has updated its standard travel screening questionnaire to identify possible cases, drawing on coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal: to ensure clinicians and other frontline medical staff ask patients about recent international travel and relevant symptoms that could prompt isolation precautions.”
Unfortunately, cyber criminals are using the coronavirus as an opportunity to launch emailed-based cyber-attacks, according to security specialist Proofpoint.
Shares of American biotech firm Gilead Sciences rose 3% after an official from the WHO said that one of Gilead’s drugs is showing signs that it may be able to help treat the deadly coronavirus.
Pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are also working on vaccines, as well as smaller drug companies.
In today’s world, data, technology and connectivity are highly advanced. Apps on our phones are leveraging the power of AI and machine learning to provide accurate, real-time insight into a wide range of health measurements. We can use remote healthcare solutions like never before. Just think about health scans at airports, allowing any suspect markers or vitals to be flagged immediately and increasing the chances of sooner treatment and a full recovery.
Tools that enable clinicians to streamline care delivery are helping some doctors more quickly diagnose coronavirus cases, provide virtual care and prevent the virus’s spread. By testing more people and sharing more information faster during an epidemic, officials are more likely to slow a contagious disease, regardless of its origin or severity.
History shows us that epidemics will continue to evolve. Due to mass travel they are spreading faster and further. It’s hard to say how widespread the coronavirus outbreak will become or what overall or long-term impact it will have on the healthcare industry.
As we move deeper into digital transformation, we need a solution for not only minimizing illness but also public panic and economic crises that inevitably go hand in hand with a health epidemic.
One thing is clear: This situation is dangerous, and it might not be going away soon.