Improvising, adapting and how AI could have avoided the panic of 2020 | NTT DATA

Wed, 02 December 2020

Improvising, adapting and how AI could have avoided the panic of 2020

Ever since the first official case of COVID-19 became public, there have been more than 50 million cases across the world and over 1 million deaths. The last pandemic of this magnitude that had a similar worldwide impact was over 100 years ago, in 1918, with the arrival of the first wave of Influenza, also known as the “Spanish flu”. Even though smart health technology is at its peak, it has proven to be of very little help to healthcare systems since the necessary digital solutions haven’t been used to their full potential.

The rapid and unexpected explosion of cases overwhelmed hospitals everywhere. One of the main medical challenges faced during the first outburst of Covid-19, was not having enough intensive care units, also known as ICUs. The immediate solution to the immense influx of critical cases was to create ICUs in places which weren’t generally equipped for such situations. Overnight, every type of intensive care unit, clinics, small hospitals, were transformed in order to attend seriously ill Covid-19 patients. But it wasn't just the hospitals that needed to transform. Suddenly, there weren’t enough doctors and nurses specialized in attending critically ill patients suffering from multiple organ failure. The fact that 10% of the patients that tested positive needed an ICU, meant that the number of victims and ICU specialists became completely disproportionate in a matter of weeks.

Improvising intensive care units and the lack of experts

From one day to another, medical specialists from many fields were being faced with the extraordinary situation of having to take care of a patient that suffered from an illness in which they were not specialized. This led to a discrepancy as to how patients were attended. Some were receiving Covid medical treatment in normal intensive care units, with specialized healthcare professionals, whilst others were taken care of in improvised ICUs by health workers that weren’t experts in this particular medical field.

The survival of patients depended on ICUs and on the expertise of the professionals taking care of them, so everybody should have had access to the same pool of knowledge.

Why are digital technologies vital in this case?

One of the reasons the initial outburst of cases was so deadly is that data was not centralised, nor did it circulate between centres. Each hospital managed their own data, instead of working like a network and sharing information automatically. This meant a delay in the exploitation of knowledge, and ultimately, in the decision making process.

When faced with a critical situation, when time is of the essence and people are fighting for their lives, the flow of information is vital. Specialists believe that efficient communication between ICUs, would have increased knowledge sharing which in turn, could have saved lives.

In fact, in the current second wave of COVID-19, the mortality rate has decreased substantially due to the greater knowledge we have of the disease.

Mental health and its impact on covid patients

Isolating victims of COVID-19 has caused a lot of stress and grief for both the patients and their families. The patient is cut off from the world, while struggling with the uncertainty of what will happen. These exceptional situations had a massive impact on the mental health of everybody involved, and it dehumanized COVID-19 patients.

Telemedicine is a solution that allows people to connect with their families in order to get the comfort they need. It's a technology that facilitates communication between specialists by allowing them to share data in real time. Implementing telemedicine solutions in hospitals would have allowed all doctors treating COVID-19 patients to be in close contact with an expert. This would have resulted in quicker and more accurate decisions.

Smart ICU - better decisions using AI

ehCOS SmartICU is a digital health solution developed by everis, which collects and analyzes several vital signs of ICU patients simultaneously by using Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is the advanced predictive analytics solution that helps healthcare professionals make accurate clinical decisions, improve the care of critically ill patients, reduce morbidity, mortality and rates of preventable adverse events optimizing resources in intensive care units (ICUs).

In the context of COVID-19, it would allow healthcare specialists to invest the time they’re saving, in treating patients. By making the exchange of knowledge easy, it would improve the decision making process, which in turn, would save more lives.

Complications are another consequence of a slow decision making process and they usually lengthen the hospitalization period of a patient. With a solution like ehCOS SmartICU, patients are treated quicker,  so they are released earlier, consequently, increasing the rotation of patients, which reduces mortality. In the long term, digitalizing the healthcare system and implementing smart digital solutions such as SMART ICU, will not only save money but also many lives.

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