Covid-19 Warriors Are Leveraging Industrial Internet
Published by : Industrial Automation
Rajabahadur V Arcot and Dr A S Kasthuri elaborate upon how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted humanity and the healthcare sector.
The pandemic Covid-19, which is highly infectious, is rapidly spreading across the world causing untold misery. Lives and livelihoods are lost and global economy stands shattered; the world, affected by the pandemic, is experiencing a crisis never witnessed in our living memory. While no specific medicine or vaccine is still available, desperate attempts are being made by health care givers to leverage the technology to help them in their fight against the dreaded pandemic. Their challenges are many; they have adopt a health care system that efficiently uses the limited resources they have at their command, to quickly find the medicines to save the millions of patients and find vaccine so that they can prevent the spread of the disease, and protect themselves for getting infected. Industrial Internet is emerging as their main ally, to make a covid-19 free tomorrow. Industrial Internet encompasses Internet of Things (IoT), Edge and Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Autonomous Robots, and such other things.
Patient- and hospital-centric health care system is resource intensive, both in terms of human resources and infrastructure facilities. In a Covid-19 like situation, it is necessary to adopt a system which efficiently uses all the resources. This is all the more relevant with regard to the Indian health care delivery system which, even otherwise, is awfully inadequate and often unaffordable to the vast majority. Technology offers viable and affordable alternatives.
The global medical fraternity is veering round to use remotely managed health care delivery system, especially in cases involving patients with mild illness and no risk factors. Last month, the World Health Organisation has issued an interim guidance “Home care for patients with Covid-19 presenting with mild symptoms and management of their contacts” that says patients “with mild illness and no risk factors may need to be isolated in non-traditional facilities, such as repurposed hotels…or managed at home.” Others, such as the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Ministry of Health and
Family Welfare, India, have also issued similar guidelines. In their article, which is based on their experiences, Dr Mirco Nacoti and his colleagues of Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in the province of Bergamo, the epicenter of Covid-19 outbreak in Italy, have also recommended home care approach and outreach services for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) systems are helping clinicians to gather patients’ physiological information from remote so as to treat them. Outreach health care services also ward off the possibility of hospitals facilitating virus transmission to other uninfected patients as their ambulances and personnel rapidly become carriers of the virus, potentially ward off this danger.
Many including domestic companies such as Bharat Electronics and Electronic Corporation of India have started making RPMs that are based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Some of them even offer smartphone connectivity. Health care providers are using RPMs. Technology is thus leveraged not only to make efficient use of human and other resources, but also for ensuring the safety of the patients and clinicians as they limit the possibility of the spread of the infection.
Artificial Intelligence is helping in the drug discovery, better understanding of the disease itself, how it spreads, to effectively screen large populations and identifying sick people, and such others. Massive efforts are underway to quickly discover a drug or a combination of drugs to save lives for Covid-19. The process involves massive amount of data relating numerous molecules to be analysed. Academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies are using artificial intelligence and other associated technologies, such as machine learning, and simulation, to rapidly hone in on the most promising molecules for further experimental testing that is required to move from a promising target to a cure /for prevention. It is almost impossible to conceive of finding a cure without the use of artificial and related technologies within the available short time. A Chinese technology company has built AI-based solutions to effectively screen large populations and detect a change in their body temperature so as to identify sick people and quarantine them before they infect others.
Autonomous vehicles, drones, and such others are used to move patients to and from healthcare facilities without risking the lives of healthy people. The humble infrared thermometer-guns are extensively used at checkpoints in public places, such as airports, hotels, hospitals, train stations, shops, etc., to measure the body temperature without establishing contact and from a distance so as to identify individuals who might need further investigation. Many countries have introduced contact tracing mobile applications similar to India’s Aarogya Setu, designed to contain the spread of the disease. These applications help state and health authorities to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to Covid-19 or create an alert when an infected individual leaves isolation facility.
Robots are used to take health data and send the same to the medical team outside of the isolation area so as to prevent the virus from spreading to the care givers. A Mumbai-based healthcare firm has deployed its diagnostic software that automates the interpretation of Covid- 19 proliferation from chest X-rays, helping healthcare professionals to monitor the extent and rate of viral infection progression.
Industrial Internet is playing an important role in managing the difficult to treat Covid-19 disease and in the midst all the gloom and doom, it is giving us hope and offers solutions to lessen the pandemic’s impact. Its role in drug and vaccine discovery, X-ray and ECG interpretation, patient health data monitoring, patient tracking, containment of the spread of the disease, decision making support, and such others are bound to increase as the pandemic spreads.
Rajabahadur V Arcot is an Independent Industry Analyst/Columnist and Automation Consultant. He has worked for companies like Honeywell, Thermax, Bells Controls – an affiliate of Foxboro/Invensys, Electronics Corporation of India Limited and Instrumentation Limited.
Dr A S Kasthuri (Retired Brigadier) – Consultant Physician, Teacher, and Mentor, is a veteran of the Indian Army Medical Corps. As Head of Medicine at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, apart from teaching and training, he was a member of many policy making bodies.