3 Innovative Technologies Being Used To Fight COVID-19

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 27, 2020

With a global pandemic shifting the mindset and priorities of individuals, businesses, and governments alike, we’re seeing several existing technologies being renewed or repurposed in light of COVID-19. Between the ongoing need to stop the virus from spreading and the equally critical need to treat those who are ill, there is no shortage of innovation required. We’ll help break down a few of the most exciting possibilities for leveraging smart technology to fight COVID-19.
  1. Artificial Intelligence.
    With an overwhelming number of patients visiting hospitals and emergency rooms as a result of COVID-19, triage doctors and emergency room personnel are struggling to keep up with the demand. Already, medical professionals are looking for alternative ways to determine the severity of each patient’s condition and prioritize care accordingly (a process known as “triage”). Several companies that developed health screening technology prior to the onset of the coronavirus have repurposed and adapted their tools to be more useful for COVID-19 patients. One tool created by a company called Qure, originally developed to detect common types of lung abnormalities, was repurposed to identify common features of the coronavirus in lung scans. After processing the scan, artificial intelligence- a technology that enables computers to learn and detect trends- calculates a risk score based on the scan. In a validation study, the tool was able to distinguish between patients with the virus and without the virus with 95% accuracy. While several other AI-based screening measures are integrated into hospital treatment protocols, the World Economic Forum encouraged hospitals to engage in clinical trials to help us gain valuable learnings about how AI can assist in the fight against COVID-19.
  2. Contact Tracing Technology.
    Two of the world’s largest and most competitive tech companies, Apple and Google, joined forces to create new COVID-19 contact tracing technology. This solution would enable users to be alerted if they have come within close proximity to a virus-carrying individual. Using Bluetooth technology, all smartphones, both Apple and Android, will have the ability to download an app which will pick up a signal from enabled devices within a close distance. If your phone happens to pick up the device signal of someone who has the virus, your phone will notify you of this possible exposure. Apple notes that the goal of this technological development is to help government and health agencies control and reduce the spread of COVID-19, with user security and privacy at the center of the design. The first phase of the app, which will integrate both Apple and Android technology, will be available in May.
  3. NASA@Work
    At the beginning of April, NASA@Work launched a contest calling for passionate, problem-solving NASA employees to present ideas for how to help the nation combat COVID-19. Contestants were directed to bring ideas that touched on one of their three areas of focus: personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilation devices, and forecasting the spread and impacts of the virus. In the two weeks after the challenge was announced, 250 ideas were submitted, three of which were highlighted in a media conference held on April 23rd:
    • VITAL Ventilator: Already passing trial testing at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, the VITAL Ventilator was developed to treat patients exhibiting more mild symptoms of the coronavirus, thus allowing for traditional ventilators to be prioritized for those in more severe circumstances. VITAL was designed using existing materials already available, which make these ventilators more economical and quicker to produce.
    • Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet: This space-inspired oxygen helmet was designed to support patients with mild symptoms, reducing their need for ventilators. The helmet works in a manner similar to a CPAP machine, forcing oxygen into the lungs via a higher amount of pressure versus “room air” (breathing without any device), but less aggressively than a ventilator.
    • Surface Decontamination System: In 2015, AMBUStat, a small portable sanitation device, was developed to quickly decontaminate potentially risky environments such as ambulances and police cars. As the original device was able to effectively kill airborne and surface viruses in under an hour, NASA is working quickly to repurpose this technology to be used in the fight against COVID.

While there is still much to learn and do in order to fully stop the progression of COVID-19, it is comforting to know that the best and brightest minds across the globe are bringing forth innovation at a rapid pace. The learnings generated by both the technologies themselves and the studies that inform them will allow medical practitioners, such as our multidisciplinary Kroger Health team, to provide better, more effective care. And for every citizen who is longing for life before COVID, many of these advances have the potential to accelerate that return to normalcy.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.