Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is now officially a pandemic, with worldwide deaths approaching 5,000 at the time of writing. Behind the numbers lies a very human tragedy with the most vulnerable members of our society at highest risk.
The public bodies that make up our National Health Service are leading the fight against the virus in the UK, but we all have a role to play in the response.
techUK members have been at the forefront of measures to mitigate the virus’s impact. Here are just a few examples of some of the work being done:
Informing the public
A raft of health apps are being utilised to help the public to reach healthcare information and advice. Apps developed include Doctorlink, iPlato’s MyGP, Evergreen Life, Babylon Health, YourMD and Livi have more than 10 million UK users between them.
There are many ways they can help during this time including remote triage, video consultation, patient signposting, patient messaging and population wide communications.
In addition to health-specific apps, social media sites are playing their part in ensuring people get accurate information. According to Ofcom, more than half of people now access news from social media sites. My colleague Vinous Ali wrote about their pledges to fight disinformation about the virus.
Facebook has said that it will remove false claims posted on its platforms; and announced that it is working with fact-checkers to review information.
YouTube has also added a link to the World Health Organization page on the virus outbreak to the top of search results.
Companies around the UK are increasingly shifting to remote working to help avoid exposure to the virus. The advent of reliable video conferencing, instant messaging and other integrated apps are helping to enable this.
Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial of its Teams platform, which facilitates remote work through video and text chat. Similarly, Cisco has expanded the capabilities of its free Webex offer and Google has made advanced streaming tools available to all paid customers of the G Suite.
In other aspects of life technology is helping to minimise contact and spread. There are few products in the world that cannot be delivered to your door or services that cannot be delivered remotely. Deliveroo has taken this a step further and launched a ‘no-contact drop-off service’ so that customers can request that food is left on the doorstep.
techUK members EMIS, TPP, InPS Vision and Microtest provide software to thousands of GP practices around the country. EMIS has replaced welcome messages with COVID-19 advice and is rolling out updates to help identify and isolate any new cases in the UK; TPP have put similar measures in place.
Our members include a range of clinical software providers such as Cerner, SystemC, Allscripts, IMS Maxims, DXC, Meditech, Servelec and InterSystems. Intersystems have released functionality allowing users of the latest editions of their TrakCare product to screen and support patients with COVID-19.
Members are also helping clinicians to upskill and learn about the virus. Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Centre offers free health and medical research on COVID-19.
Modelling, Analytics and Visualisations
You may have seen some of the immersive maps showing the number and locations of coronavirus cases. Public Health England’s COVID-19 map shows all instances of the illness in England and John Hopkins University have developed a global map. Both are built on techUK member ESRI’s ArcGIS platform.
Tableau has launched a free resource page that includes data visualizations about the spread of COVID-19 and the response; and Facebook has generated maps that display population density, demographics, and travel patterns, helping researchers to allocate supplies.
techUK members are heavily involved in efforts to test, treat, vaccinate and cure Coronavirus and it was techUK member Roche Diagnostics that launched the first COVID-19 test on 30 January.
There are currently no medicines proven to be effective in the treatment of human coronaviruses but a number of member companies have committed resources to change this. IBM own the world's current most powerful supercomputer and have put it to the task of finding medical compounds that are effective against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, London-based Artificial Intelligence company DeepMind is seeking to contribute to the scientific community's understanding of the virus - they have released structural predictions for “understudied proteins” that are linked to COVID-19.
techUK’s Coronavirus Taskforce
These are just some of the actions our member companies are undertaking to help combat COVID-19. At techUK we play a dual role of working to make the UK a great place for tech companies; but also ensuring that technology delivers benefits for the UK population.
Last week techUK attended a meeting hosted by the Prime Minister to better understand how technology companies can assist the UK Government and NHS through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this meeting techUK has created a COVID-19 Taskforce for member companies to help them better understand what they can do to support Government and NHS efforts.
If you think your company could be of assistance in helping the NHS’s efforts please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I lead techUK’s engagement with NHSX.
If you think your company may be able to offer wider support to the UK Government through this period please email email@example.com who will be coordinating our engagement with Government.