In Tracking Coronavirus Outbreak Cases, Tech Steps Up

February 18, 2020 Scott Wallask

For health care providers and government health officials, the coronavirus spreading out of China is a global nemesis. Monitoring coronavirus cases is a challenge as new incidents of the emerging disease pop up daily. 

As of the morning of February 13, 2020, 60,360 people have been infected and 1,370 have died from the respiratory virus, which is formally called COVID-19. That’s according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which hosts one of the more interesting applications of enterprise tech used in tracking coronavirus outbreak cases. 

Coronavirus outbreak blood vial held by a caregiver

GIS Dashboard Provides Near Real-Time Coronavirus Tracking

The Johns Hopkins dashboard pulls its information from:

The dashboard takes the various data about coronavirus outbreak cases and presents it on a global map with dynamic statistics. 

Behind the scenes, the dashboard runs on Esri’s ArcGIS, which is a geographic information system (GIS) that crunches locations and data to create interactive maps.

Emergency response teams and government leaders “require data visualized in an efficient and effective way to provide situational awareness and to help in their decision-making processes,” wrote Derek Law, a technology evangelist at Esri. The company’s GIS tech also was used to track Australia’s wildfires in 2019 and 2020. 

Flood of Coronavirus Outbreak Info Feeds AI Efforts

The seemingly constant coverage of the virus’ spread has created millions of data points from social sites, news accounts, and other sources. It’s that pool of data that gives artificial intelligence (AI) the foundation from which to build its learning.

InterSystems produces the IRIS for Health platform that is designed to extract useful information from medical data through machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“Machine learning is very good at identifying patterns in the data, such as risk factors that might identify zip codes or cohorts of people that are connected to the virus,” said Don Woodlock, a vice president at InterSystems, told STAT.

InterSystems also has a universal health information system called TrakCare that is similar to an electronic medical record. New features in TrakCare help physicians screen COVID-19 patients, and the information links to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. Customers in China and other countries are using the product to track and analyze coronavirus data, the company said.

Tablet on Wheels Bridges Communication to Isolated Patients

In hospital rooms and isolation facilities, caregivers may be understandably spooked about treating patients, given how much is still unknown about the disease’s origin and contagiousness.

With a mix of telehealth and mobility, InTouch Health has begun using its Vici device to assist health care providers in treating outbreak patients. Vici is a combination of a tablet and high-definition camera on wheels, and can be left alone with an isolation patient while still allowing that person to communicate with a physician or nurse.

Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., used Vici as the hospital treated the first documented case in the U.S. of a coronavirus patient.

“Caregivers provide care within the isolation unit, but technology is allowing us to reduce the number of up-close interactions,” Amy Compton-Phillips, chief clinical officer at Providence Regional Medical Center, told Forbes.

Vici can also be used in less urgent situations, such as when a physician needs to speak to a patient but the parties are at different sites.

(Teledoc, a virtual care company, announced plans in January 2020 to acquire InTouch Health.)

Data Amplified by Technology Aids Coronavirus Sleuths

In reviewing how enterprise tech has helped organizations, governments, and medical facilities monitor coronavirus, three important themes bubble up: 

  • Although press coverage and social media posts about coronavirus may verge on overkill, the reports provide a healthy dose of data points that can enhance AI and machine learning.
  • Locational information combined with data about coronavirus cases helps pinpoint hot spots.
  • When treating patients, B2B tech can help control the spread of infections from patients to caregivers.

In the broader picture, even if you’re not directly involved with tracking coronavirus outbreak cases, think about how machine learning could help your business if it involves large amounts of data for which real-time analysis could benefit your employees and customers.

About the Author

Scott Wallask

Scott Wallask is a director of content at ZoomInfo and Datanyze. He has more than 25 years of storytelling and editing experience, and previously oversaw a series of enterprise tech news sites. Before that, he spent 12 years covering hospital safety topics. He holds a BA degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston.

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