Mobile technology deployed in Covid-19 pandemic fight

The taskforce identified technologies that could be deployed in response to the pandemic

Mobile technology can play a vital role in the fight against Covid-19, according to an international study with Irish involvement.

National University of Ireland Galway Professor of Medical Device Technology and Consultant Physician University Hospital Galway, Prof Derek O’Keeffe, was among a 60-person expert taskforce organised by the team at the Harvard Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in the USA to examine the role of mobile health (mHealth) technologies during the pandemic.

The ‘Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic?’ study, published in the August edition of the IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology (IEEE OJEMB), reviewed mHealth technologies and explored their use to monitor and mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The taskforce identified technologies that could be deployed in response to the pandemic and would likely be suitable for future pandemics.

mHealth technologies were viable options to monitor Covid-19 patients and help predict symptom escalation for earlier intervention, they found.

Prof O’Keeffe said digital health technology had the potential to become a major tool in the fight against the pandemic.

“In this comprehensive study, we reviewed the full spectrum of mHealth systems and research enabling us to identify both what can be used to address Covid-19 now and also in the future,” he said.

The research focused on all aspects of Covid-19 care from using novel technologies to help improve diagnostic triage to the physiological monitoring of field hospital patients and front-line workers using wearable sensors and artificial intelligence tools.

“The alarming growth of Covid-19 cases has highlighted the shortcomings of healthcare systems, governmental policies, and wider societal issues,” added Prof O’Keeffe.

“Our approach gives authorities an evidence-based toolbox to implement state-of-the-art remote patient and front-line worker vital sign monitoring solutions. In addition, we outline the ideal criteria and examples of both occupational and general public contact tracing solutions, such as the recent HSE Covid-19 Tracker App.”

Lead author Dr Paolo Bonato, PhD, Director of the Spaulding Motion Analysis Lab, said one of the study’s main goals was to get its findings to the clinical community as quickly as possible.

“To be able to activate a diverse group of experts with such a singular focus speaks to the commitment the entire research and science community has in addressing this pandemic,” he said.

The taskforce’s paper concluded that smartphone applications enabling self-reports and wearable sensors enabling physiological data collection could be used to monitor clinical personnel and detect early signs of an outbreak in the hospital/healthcare settings.

OJEMB, doi:10.1109/OJEMB.2020.3015141.

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