Sunday, June 7, 2020


COVID-19 is a vicious disease, whose pathogenesis appears to be unlike anything that most physicians have ever seen before. The virus can trigger a widespread endothelial failure, which explains the extreme hypoxemia, the thrombogenic state, and the extensive end-organ dysfunction that progressively leads to death. Cytokine storm contributes to a large number of fatalities. Social distancing is widely recommended, but variably practiced. The disease has had a profound deleterious impact on economic activity. Furthermore, physicians are learning that many of their established therapeutic algorithms do not work in patients with COVID-19, and they may make things worse. Two old familiar drugs -- chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine -- have been recommended, and when used in high doses, have led to death, presumably related to their well-known proarrhythmic effects.


We’ve seen it all during this global public health crisis; overwhelmed hospitals forcing patients to sleep on the floor; mounting fear of being in proximity to others; but also the importance of a robust healthcare system. As a consequence of our collective and individual experiences throughout the pandemic, things will change in the healthcare landscape. Below we discuss three of the most significant changes we’ll experience.

1. An unprecedented toll on healthcare workers

During this global tragedy, it’s not only the economy or the population that are being affected but also the healthcare professionals on the frontlines. The latter are enduring extreme work conditions and sacrifices in order to help the infected. Despite a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), they show up to work using DIY-solutions like ski goggles and bin bags with a high risk of being infected. Many are working overtime and witness patient after patient succumb to the disease.

“The anxiety of knowing you might be at risk when you’re doing your job can be very challenging for health care workers,” says Terri Rebmann, a nurse researcher and director of the Institute for Biosecurity at Saint Louis University. “It’s physically and mentally draining.” This will lead to an inevitable spike in burnouts among the healthcare staff. Even before the novel coronavirus outbreak, some estimated nearly half of the world’s 10 million physicians had symptoms of burnout. Now imagine after COVID-19…

Moreover, war-like scenarios where unclaimed victims are laid to rest in mass graves in New York are taking an additional toll on the medical personnel. More than burnouts, we will see frontliners with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After this pandemic subsides, we will have to brace ourselves for the aftermath on medical professionals on the frontlines.

2. Diminishing trust in the globalized world

In the pre-pandemic globalized world, we enjoyed a certain level of trust we mostly took for granted. We could travel almost without limitations, meet people without restrictions and order products worldwide. This will simply change after billions of people had to stay indoors for weeks.


We will not be able to travel that freely or enjoy the supply chains of the world so easily. We will think twice before going somewhere or to meet someone. The pandemic is already exacerbating signs of social anxiety and agoraphobia. Regaining trust takes time and these trends will take place for months after lockdowns are lifted.

3. Focus on the healthcare system

It’s tragic how the pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of healthcare systems worldwide. The overburdened hospitals need an upgrade on every level from their infrastructures to their processes. These will be needed to ensure a safe environment for the personnel and patients, as well to better cope with any emergency situations.

artificial intelligence and COVID
For example, one of the reasons speculated for Germany’s comparatively low death rate is its good intensive care situation. Digital health showed its aptitude to deal with such a crisis. We can expect to see many governments put more focus on healthcare. They can adopt similar strategies employed by other countries that better managed the crisis. As people in the frontlines of the fight witnessed, with inefficient healthcare systems, we will not be able to handle the next outbreak.


While we’ll unfortunately witness the toll on our healthcare workers and face reduced trust, other changes could take place depending on countries, duration of lockdowns and even personal experiences. Here are three changes we could see emerge as a result:

1. Get your new travel document: the immunity passport

Such a passport will function in a similar way to how passports and visas work. If you are certified to be immune to the virus, you will get a pass to resume your daily routine, and if not, you will have to stay indoors. The U.K. government is already considering it and other countries might follow suit.

It might even become a requirement to travel to a country. As a matter of fact, it’s already happening. In mid-April, Emirates Airline conducted rapid COVID-19 blood tests on passengers travelling to Tunisia from Dubai. “This will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates,” reads a statement from the airline company.

This sounds a lot like a divide between the haves and the have-nots and is the subject of ongoing debates. Some might voluntarily go out to catch the virus in the hopes of gaining immunity to it. There will be the lingering fear of unemployment due to being forced to stay in isolation without such a passport. Moreover, testing for immunity will inevitably result in false positives (people incorrectly identified as immune), undermining the efficacy of such a passport altogether.

Digital Health And The Fight Against The COVID-19 Pandemic
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2. Surveillance as an ongoing public health measure

No one wants to be surveilled, but what if it’s for greater good? That’s what certain governments had to resort to in order to facilitate contact tracing. Countries from Germany through Israel to Singapore are using phone tracking data to locate and alert those who might be infected. South Korea went the extra mile by using CCTV footage and bank transactions in addition to phone use in its tracing process.

This could lead to certain governments, in particular totalitarian ones, to erase a layer of privacy from citizens’ life. It brings a whole new dimension to privacy and ethics issues like we’ve seen in South Korea. But under the guise of another major public health crisis, such measures could become the norm.

3. Brand-new habits

Awareness for personal and public hygiene measures saw a surge thanks to the contagion. Health authorities are advocating for regular handwashing with soap for at least 20 seconds. Social distancing measures are in place. People are getting used to wearing facemasks for grocery shopping.


These new-formed habits could linger way after lockdowns are lifted, leading to overall better hygiene. We might see people wearing masks wherever they go and unintentionally be more cautious around our elderly. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the U.S., even thinks that we should never shake hands again. 


Even if things will change, not everything might change. Certain aspects of healthcare should change to better attend to our post-pandemic needs. Let’s see three of the major changes we should see in order to make for a more compelling healthcare setting.

1. Artificial intelligence as a necessary tool

We have stressed the need to implement artificial intelligence in the healthcare setting for years, but the novel coronavirus’ damage highlighted this need even more. We saw how an A.I. platform assisted in sending out the first alerts of the outbreak. Algorithms are used to help screen for those potentially affected. A.I. can help hospitals manage their resources. It’s even in use to speed up vaccine research.

These developments go on to show that A.I. will help us better prepare for the next public health crisis. These algorithms aren’t solutions in themselves but rather tools aiding professionals to perfect their craft. 

2. A shift in the point-of-care

The importance of digital health solutions was made clear during these challenging times. They are ready-made options to bring healthcare to patients, rather than the other way round. Telemedicine’s use skyrocketed. We have a whole article dedicated to digital health apps helping people during the pandemic. Devices like digital stethoscopes, portable ECG monitors and digital otoscopes can be used at home and the results shared remotely with doctors.

Medical bag of the 21st century

These eliminate doctor-patient visits whenever it’s avoidable and also help reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Such devices should become commonplace, shifting the point-of-care to the patient.

3. Sustainable solutions

If this pandemic taught us anything, it’s that our life (as it used to be) is not sustainable for our planet. We all had to experiment with digital solutions, be it virtual meetings for work, digital education for students and virtual events instead of in person conferences. These proved not only to be effective but also an environmentally-friendly way to operate in a connected world.


If you have any doubts please let me know. Thank you.


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