Note: This blog was originally published on The New Stack on February 12, 2020. Since then, there has been substantial coronavirus updates.
With Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) causing more deaths than the 2003 SARS outbreak and showing no signs of containment, one thing becomes clear: the disease is out of our control right now and we’re going to have to get innovative if we want to catch up with it.
The disease originated in China back in December, and while there’s been a lot of controversy around how it was handled, it’s important to recognize that our energy is best spent finding solutions.
Now, more than ever, the world needs to come together. We have to bring forth the best minds in healthcare and technology and innovate if we’re going to outsmart this disease.
Finding Big Hope in Big Data
One place that shows promise is big data. Healthcare data, genomic data, pharmaceutical data, clinical trials, data collected from patients who currently have the disease, social media data, even facial recognition data. We have so much data available to us. If we can be resourceful with our data, we can apply our findings to help curb the spreading of the disease or discover treatments.
That’s precisely what a company called BlueDot is doing. The company actually predicted the outbreak three weeks before the Chinese government announced travel restrictions. The company’s geofencing platform ingests data from web articles, social media, online communications, and text messages and was able to produce an alert back in December that warned of early signs of an outbreak.
The company continues to leverage its software to help the world push back on the spread of coronavirus. Bluedot is currently tracking the disease based on airline schedules and other sources of unstructured data. Then, overlaying this data with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), they can predict where the disease is likely to spread, and warn those areas to begin preparations.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) is also tracking the whereabouts of the disease. It is hosting a real-time GIS dashboard that shows all documented cases of coronavirus around the world, including deaths and people recovered.
“During SARS, there was not a huge amount of information coming out of China,” said John Brownstein from healthmap.org. We have a lot more data available to us this time around that we can use to aid in the fight.
But what about a treatment or a cure?
That’s what researchers at Deargen and Dankook University are focused on. They created an AI-based prediction model that can suggest commercially available drugs based on data that might be a good match to treat the disease. Their software identified atazanavir, an HIV drug, as a potential match, and further testing is exploring how effective this could be.
Innovating in the Face of Danger
If there’s anything positive to be said about the situation, it’s that the world is being put to the test. As a result, we are being innovative, and strengthening our toolset — and more innovations are to come.
Global research director for the Internet of Things (IoT) at Frost & Sullivan, Dilip Sarangan envisions a future where “a network of virus-detection sensors uses facial recognition to identify, trace, and monitor people that may have contracted the coronavirus.”
Theresa Do, a biostatistician at SAS foresees a future where technologies such as smartwatches even come into play, as data about a change in heart rates and sleep could provide early indications that a person is infected.
Correlate this data with intelligent predictions about where the disease is spreading and we gain a picture of a world that is much more prepared to fight against infectious disease.
What About the Cloud?
Of course, when you have big data you need big storage. That’s where cloud computing comes in. The cloud allows organizations to ingest, process, analyze, and share big data — a process known as data interoperability — in a scalable, cost-efficient manner.
Without the cloud, storing and managing this amount of data would be cost-prohibitive for the healthcare industry. It would require expensive servers, and space to keep them, which most organizations can’t afford.
Although healthcare cloud adoption is on the rise, for many healthcare organizations cloud adoption is still a challenge. If more healthcare organizations can adopt cloud infrastructure, we will see greater innovation in terms of disease mitigation technologies.
Will Cloud Computing Help Us Outsmart the Virus?
When it comes to our current, public health crisis, no one can predict the final outcome. What we do know is that cloud computing is presenting healthcare with some unique tools to bring to the fight.
If the world wants to enhance our ability to fight against infectious disease in the future, cloud adoption across the healthcare industry is a must. Reach out to Cloudticity, which offers HIPAA-Compliant/HITRUST-Certified Managed cloud solutions, to learn how we can help.