Medical experts and researchers are constantly innovating, improving, and evolving their technologies and practices. However, the highly variable nature of COVID-19 and the massive drain the pandemic placed on healthcare resources made quick innovation vital.
As a result, the past several years have seen some incredible creations to diagnose and treat COVID-19, many of which are also usable beyond COVID-specific applications.
Many companies have focused their efforts on addressing the shortage of COVID-19 testing supplies. An artificial intelligence (AI) company, Axial3D, used their technology to design and 3D-print nasal swabs for testing. These new swabs are much faster to produce and maintain the samples better than previous swabs.
Before the pandemic, Mayo Clinic had partnered with another AI company, nference, to de-identify patient records. This would separate all patient-identifying information from their lab values, clinical notes, and vital signs. They accelerated this project once the pandemic arrived, de-identifying over 12 million patient records.
This data allows the Mayo Clinic to make comparisons, find connections, and perform medical research much more quickly than they could before. While they are currently using the records to advance COVID research, the innovative data platform will be incredibly useful for future studies, as well.
In recent years, CRISPR technology has been making headlines as one of the most impressive emerging medical tools. CRISPR pioneers are creating over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that could provide results within 20 minutes.
These swabs use guide RNA and a programmed sequence to identify the virus, but developers believe that they will soon be capable of providing mass testing for many infections.
Because nearly every person has access to a smartphone, Italy-based SDG group created the mobile app, Docdot. This app uses remote photoplethysmography (rPPG), allowing smartphone cameras to capture the light reflecting off the blood vessels beneath the skin. An AI then scans and interprets the data.
Essentially, just by staring at the smartphone screen, patients can transmit their heart rate, oxygen saturation, and stress levels to their doctors. While the technology is new, it is reportedly 90% accurate and is in use in many countries.
Resmed, one of the leading developers of ventilation devices, hastened the release of their patient data management software, AirView, to meet growing remote care needs. This cloud-based system uses chips to monitor and transfer data about a user’s ventilation behaviors and health. Remote staff can make changes and manage the individual without either party risking exposure to the virus.
At a glance, it may seem like Formula 1 (F1) racing does not have any connection to the medical field. However, a group from University College London teamed up with F1 engineers from Mercedes-AMG to create a non-invasive ventilation device.
This design is less oxygen-hungry than the ventilator designs it uses as a base, and the expertise of the F1 team dramatically improved fluid and airflow. The developers created the breathing aid within a rapid timeframe, with the entire design process taking under 100 hours.
With so many people needing breathing assistance, there has been a huge push to create accessible, affordable ventilation technology. JAMVENT, an innovative ventilator, forgoes the need for more complex valves in favor of simple on-off valves that are less expensive, easier to install, and are widely available. It also includes a breath-sensing mode to help patients improve their breathing. The basic design is significantly less costly than intensive care.
Over the course of the pandemic, many healthcare providers have relied on AI-powered chatbots to meet telehealth needs and answer basic health questions. Sutter Health added a series of questions to their chatbot symptom checker, allowing its algorithm to determine if a person has a COVID-19 infection.
The bot also checks the patient’s risk factors and medical history to improve its diagnostic accuracy. Since the pandemic began, Sutter’s chatbot use has tripled, with many users accessing it outside of typical office hours.
Companies across many industries, including the medical field, are testing drone supply lines. North Carolina-based Novant Health paired up with Zipline to create a drone to deliver COVID supplies. The drone can travel up to 80 miles per hour, even in adverse weather conditions, on flights averaging 20 to 30 miles round-trip. It drops packages with parachutes, enabling a complete no-contact delivery.
While it is common for healthcare practitioners to regularly attend lectures and training to learn new skills, the pandemic has made it clear that it needs to be a priority. Because they cannot meet in person, hospitals have turned to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to train their staff.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center uses VR, AR, and AI programs to place doctors, nurses, and technicians in a room with a virtual patient that responds to their actions and changes throughout the simulation. The technology helps workers stay up-to-date and in good form without risking exposure.
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