The contribution of digital health in the fight against Coronavirus


We see, in this article, the applications of digital health in contrast to Covid-19, which are possible or have been made in Italy and abroad.

Digital health can provide an important contribution in communication with citizens and patients. Websites, apps and chatbots can represent alternative channels of communication to traditional ones – for example toll-free telephone numbers, which are very often congested. Some examples can be seen here and in this post.

The need to communicate to a large number of patients, the interruption of visits and non-urgent services, can be fulfilled with automatic telephone recall systems – the same that are normally used for appointment confirmation.

In the management of patients at home telemedicine can help both by enabling remote visits (televisits) and the detection of vital parameters (telemonitoring). It is also possible to use telephone recall systems to detect certain parameters or clinical conditions, as explained here.

In hospital, vital parameters of patients in isolation can be detected by wearing devices, thus reducing contact between nursing staff and patients (here an example). With mobile devices and audio-video conferencing systems it is possible to keep patients in contact with their families. To mitigate the sense of isolation, VR viewers can be used, as for example at the Sheba Medical Center.

The diagnosis of the Coronavirus can be performed not only with the swabs in use today, but also with Lab-On-Chip devices. The evaluation of chest CT scans can be accelerated and made more precise thanks to artificial intelligence systems, as shown here. First aid triage software can be configured to integrate clinical protocols that are designed to evaluate and manage incoming patients.

The need for collaboration between clinicians, e.g. emergency physicians, ward physicians and infectivologists can be met by sharing and discussing clinical cases and tele-consultation systems.

For the monitoring of the epidemic, geo-referencing systems and predictive analysis models are used to evaluate possible scenarios on the spread of the virus.

Finally, online services for citizens prevent people from having to access health care facilities to book, pay or collect reports. As far as the delivery of medicines is concerned, some regions have given indications to general practitioners to provide their patients with the Electronic Recipe Number (NRE) via SMS or WhatsApp, thus avoiding that they have to go to the clinic to pick up the paper memo (for those who are not able to receive it via email).

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