Managing Technology Usage During the Swine Flu Pandemic
The results of a study that compared healthcare facilities in Canada with those in the US, New Zealand and Australia reveals strong evidence that increases in technology usage are correlated with lower hospitalizations for common respiratory illnesses. “No surprises here: The United States leads the world in both health spending growth and technology adoption per capita, while Canada lags far behind in both,” according to the study. The researchers examined two groups of patients, aged thirty to sixty-four who had been admitted to health-care facilities during the last five years. Of the eight hundred randomly selected patients, six hundred were from Canada and the six hundred from the other countries.
While no significant differences in overall health could be found in any of the countries, there were notable differences in treatment quality and care receipt between the countries. In Canada, care was significantly more frequent for pneumonia and acute bronchitis, and spending on specialized staff was significantly higher in Canada than in the United States and New Zealand. The report goes on to state that the largest increase in healthcare spending occurred in Canada between 2020, when hospitals in this country saw a ten percent increase in revenues. However, spending on information technology was actually cheaper than it was in the United States and New Zealand.
Healthcare workers in Canada encountered fewer encounters with a deadly virus, swine flu, and did not experience a high number of new virus infections (or cases of pandemic viruses). This is especially noteworthy given that the pandemic was declared a public health emergency. The researchers attribute this “unusual” finding to technological usage. They note that respiratory illness claims were higher in Canada than in the United States and New Zealand, while technology usage was lower.
As it turns out, a direct correlation can be drawn between increases in technology usage and health outcomes. Health officials are concerned about the possibility of a future pandemic or highly contagious HPAI. In response to the concern, Canadian authorities conducted a study regarding electronic health records and its relation to the covid-19 pandemic. According to this study, hospitalization rates for previously hospitalized patients rose approximately fifteen-fold between 2020. This alarming trend has prompted health officials to recommend that healthcare providers implement contact tracing via digital technology.
While it is good to implement new technology into the health care sector, it must be utilized properly to minimize potential threats. According to an article at Harvard Medical School Review, “excessive digitization may also lead to privacy concerns, as electronic medical records may be poorly matched to patient medical records.” However, this problem is not unique to Canada. Researchers noted that the UK National Health Service (NHS) is now recommending that its 7th Wave of digitization will also include artificial intelligence as well. Artificial intelligence has been found to help improve healthcare by identifying and tracking patient morality and clinical data, and by helping healthcare providers improve their resiliency to potential threats.
One major benefit of artificially intelligent software is that it can alert authorities to outbreaks before they occur. It can do this by analyzing real time virus outbreak data from all over the globe and by comparing that data with data from past outbreaks to identify similarities. By the same token, it can make decisions about treatment that would be prudent based on what it knows about the current outbreak. For instance, it might suggest that doctors make universal use of chlorine for disinfection when it is clear that cholera is a likely threat, but that mass chlorine usage should be avoided when there is strong evidence that diphtheria is not a risk.
Researchers also suggest that the UK healthcare service and NHS need to coordinate better with the information technology industry to co-ordinate more effectively between outbreak alerts, disease detection and distribution, and health care access. They recommend three different technological interventions to combat the global resurgence of the highly contagious covid-19. The first is education. They recommend educating students about the highly infectious nature of the virus, and about the best ways to respond to an outbreak in a range of settings.
Second, they recommend deploying a national swine flu strategy to increase awareness about the virus. Finally, they recommend educating people in high-risk communities about how to remain fit and healthy and avoid exposure to the highly contagious strain. Although technology usage during the covid-19 pandemic was much less than during previous years, it was still significantly higher than the rate of use during previous decades. In addition, although researchers estimate that nearly half of the world’s population has never come into contact with the virus, they said that the remaining quarter of the world’s population is at risk. The World Health Organisation called for all member countries to implement coordinated strategies to protect the most vulnerable.