With over 90,000 cases and 3,000 deaths (and counting), the coronavirus has claimed its share of victims across the world. While there is no denying the gravity of the situation, it’s important to take a step back and phrase this problem in the appropriate context. You see, this is not the first time the world has dealt with a viral epidemic. In the early 2000s, the world was beset with SARS, swine flu and Ebola. In each case, global health organisations, like the WHO, curbed their spread (though a cure is still in the works). The current outbreak of Coronavirus resembles these problems, with one exception: Health analytics.
In the past, we spoke about how data analytics plays a huge role in healthcare, and it will be no exception with Coronavirus. In fact, global health officials are better placed to combat this problem compared to previous problems.
Health analytics makes it easier to track the Coronavirus as it spreads. Tracking the virus with conventional means is challenging because of the rapid rate of transmission. As some of you might know, the Coronavirus can spread through respiratory droplets like sneezing and coughing. It is even possible for people to spread the disease before the symptoms have manifested, so people could be carriers without even realising it. Fortunately, health analytics allows health organisations to monitor dispersal patterns, more so than any other technology.
Data analytics is so effective in tracking viral transmissions because it can draw information from different sources, like case reports and flight manifests, to deliver the most accurate readings. This is possible because health officials have access to more data than ever before, the world is producing more data than previous decades, providing millions of data points for officials to work with. Tracking the virus is the first step to understanding how it spreads so that it is easier to warn the public or take proactive steps in stopping its spread.
Building on the advantages of tracking the virus, public health officials can predict where the virus will spread before it happens. In an age where people can cross the ocean in hours, an epidemic can become a global disaster within days. It explains the large number of cases across the world – by the time public health officials realised the dangers of the virus, it had spread to most parts of China and even the world. However, health analytics makes it possible to track but also predict where the virus will be before it makes it to a location. Health analytics has proven to be a huge difference-maker in predicting the rate of transmission and direction of the virus. Predictive analytics can leverage the data collected to anticipate its trajectory.
Predictive analytics allows public health officials to get a better understanding of where the virus will spread, making it easier to develop more proactive measures. With a cure still in the works, health officials need to allocate resources to minimise the damage the virus can do. Predictive health analytics allows officials to be smarter and more concise about their measures to prevent corona from spreading, as well as allocating the resources needed to make it happen.
Health analytics makes it easier to learn more about diseases than ever before. One of the most perturbing things about the Coronavirus is that there is no known record of it in history, which means it’s brand new (meaning there is no cure). But data analytics makes it easier to study the disease because it leverages machine learning and AI to analyse the millions of data points that generate useful information on the disease. The more we learn about the disease, the better we understand the causes and symptoms of the Coronavirus.
History is rife with moments when epidemics have ravaged the population, dating back to the Medieval Ages. While the dangers of the Coronavirus should not be underestimated, global health organisations are far better equipped to combat this problem than they were in decades in the past. Health analytics has made a huge difference, as health officials find ways to combat the virus. A cure is a long way off, but analytics is giving officials other options to curb the disease’s spread in unique ways. For example, health officials can engage in syndromic surveillance using social media (and soon IoT) to monitor various health indicators from both the public and private. Data health analytics could be the key to fighting the spread of the Coronavirus until a cure is found.