The Covid pandemic has had severe, indelible effects on the entire world since it began in late 2019. The medical field has had to scramble to introduce new treatment and disease prevention methods to the market to save lives.
Between December 2019 and September 2021, over 4.6 million people have died from Covid. Many of these deaths were preventable, especially since the vaccine became easier to access in countries around the world.
Dr Ryan Shelton of Zenith Labs shares how new advances in technology are impacting the fight against the Covid pandemic.
Artificial intelligence or AI has been instrumental so far in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. AI has been used to detect signs of the coronavirus in digital imaging scans. For example, AI can be used in concert with computerized tomography (CT) lung scans to spot potential problem areas.
AI has also been used to compile vast amounts of data about the coronavirus and discover new insights. Patient data, global movements of people, and other assessments have been used to help in the battle against the deadly disease.
AI has helped to process research into new molecules that can be used as medications for the virus. It has also helped a great deal in developing the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
A shift toward telehealth was inevitable at the beginning of the lockdown period, but doctors worldwide are still using it to communicate with and better treat their patients. Telehealth enables ill or physically distant patients who cannot visit their providers in person to receive a diagnosis and guidance. It enables doctors from large cities to see patients from small and isolated towns all over the world. Patients who are currently infected with Covid who are safely isolating at home can also receive medical care in this way.
One barrier that has stood in the way of the more widespread adoption of telehealth is that it takes time for staff to implement these programs. During the current crisis, time is often a luxury that the staff does not have. Dr. Ryan Shelton believes that these systems should be put into place where support personnel can do so.
Blockchain has been touted in recent years as the solution to many problems in computing and financial services. Its security and transparency are proving to be extremely helpful in the fight against Covid. Blockchain can simplify the tracking of supply chains, track clusters of cases, identify patterns of disease symptoms, and improve the accuracy of a doctor’s diagnosis.
Blockchain can also make it easier and faster for health insurance companies to process claims, a significant source of stress for many doctors and patients.
3-D printing was especially helpful during the early months of the pandemic when supply chains were severely disrupted by port and plant closures. Doctors and medical technicians could print their parts for vital machinery rather than waiting for them to be manufactured. The technology has been used on a massive scale, helping medical staff serve their patients more efficiently.
The rapid sharing of medical data through open-source platforms has helped a great deal in combating the Covid pandemic. The genome of the 2019-nCov virus was sequenced and placed in an open database in January 2020. This discovery paved the way for many beneficial treatments, including tests and vaccines.
Open-source databases provided a great deal of help with contact tracing, one of how the spread of the virus could be monitored before widespread testing was available. Though tests are now available to anyone in the United States who needs one, doctors relied on contact tracing to determine whether there was a local cluster of the disease in the early months of the pandemic.
The mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were created using gene-editing technology. CRISPR, a technique that allows scientists to change the basic characteristics of DNA, was used to develop both diagnostics and drugs for the virus.
CRISPR could also be used to develop drugs and other therapies for the treatment of the Covid virus. The possibilities of this technology are endless.
Moving Forward Through Technology
While worldwide pandemics have affected us before and will again, the fight against the Covid pandemic represents a height of scientific and medical achievement. While the virus and its variants may seem to be staying one step ahead of scientists and public health measures in some countries are not holding up to expectations, the virus will be conquered in the coming years.
Dr Ryan Shelton understands that patients are alarmed by Covid, and he wants them to know that the full weight of medical science is being brought to bear on the continuing problem.