If one point has been proven by the pandemic, which seems to have punched our planet in it’s virtual stomach, it is that, in general, the healthcare sector still seems to have a lot to learn when it comes to technology. Thankfully there are a few advances and exceptions, many of which the disease seems to have precipitated.

We all know how hard one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations, Italy, was hit. Time for innovation…

Due to the number of serious cases admitted to a hospital in the Brescia region of the country, the hospital ran out of ventilator valves which are essential in the treatment of ICU patients suffering from COVID-related pneumonia. The dire need was communicated to a few innovative individuals who put their collective heads together to come up with a plan. A company called Isinnova took little time in responding to the challenge. They took a 3D printer to the hospital and, within 6 hours, succeeded in copying the valve. What’s more, the valve which cost $11 000 cost only $1 to copy. As they say, “Italiani grandi inventori”!

Sadly, the patent holder is allegedly threatening legal action against these lifesavers.

In South Korea, the government has instituted the tracking of carriers of the virus using cellphones to great effect. While European medical insurance companies have started paying the same rate to telehealth companies for virtual doctor consults as they had previously paid for physical visits. Thankfully, new healthcare apps have made it possible to identify symptoms and dispense treatment advice long before a visit to an at-risk healthcare professional is required. In fact, in Singapore over 1 million individuals have used MaNaDr for virtual doctor visits.

In the US, which initially lagged in their response to the virus, an Austin based security company has developed thermal imaging computer vision cameras to be able to scan large groups of people in locations such as airports and hospitals. Historically thermometers scanned only one person at a time, and it needed to be within close range of the subject. The new camera uses AI to zoom in on a person’s inner eye and can read the temperature of an individual in 12 places on the body within 0.5-degree accuracy.

Artificial intelligence is also being applied in several countries and situations to analyse the effectiveness of certain treatments to predict the most effective care methods. What’s more, AI will most probably be the technology that will help us develop a vaccine.

With the number of confirmed cases in South Korea exceeding 8 000, facial recognition enables the identification of members of certain communities, such as the notorious church, Shincheonji, in Daegu, a city of more than 2.5m inhabitants, where the outbreak seemed to have spread with alarming speed.

With plans for robots and drones to deliver food to infected groups, big data, cloud computing and robotics will continue to become even more critical to ensuring human health. Leaders who demonstrate an understanding of the potential capabilities of disruptive technologies will become more and more valuable to our species.

The downside? The risk to our privacy. How will companies who have access protect our data? It becomes a question of, do we forsake privacy for the sake of having better control measures in place? Good question.

To quote Hugo Fiennes, CEO of Electric Imp, an Internet of Things platform: ‘The reality seems to be that when it comes to the internet-connected device, there is no such thing as absolute security’.

There you have it…