Cecilia Harvey on the applications of sensor technology in healthcare and its potential to tackle COVID-19 and healthcare inequality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious gaps in our healthcare service, and severe inequalities in both the treatment and wellbeing of different demographics. Sensor technology can help to bridge these inequalities: by providing more equal access to basic healthcare services, protecting the public as a whole, and by helping stabilise our global economy as a consequence.
Imagine a world where there is:
- Equal access to high-quality healthcare services regardless of socio-economic status and geographic location
- Quick deployment of mobile hospitals to service impoverished communities around the globe
- Minimal healthcare capacity constraints for an aging population
- Proactive treatment of mental and emotional health issues that can improve the quality of life for millions
Pandemic Recovery: A New Normal
As we tentatively enter the recovery phase of this global pandemic, sensor technology is a strategic enabler to help get employees back to work, students back in school, and consumers back to stores. Health and safety are the utmost priority in this process. Sensor technology can allow for the proactive identification of many of the key symptoms and markers related to coronavirus. These include temperature, heart rate, respiration, blood oxygen levels, and stress and anxiety indicators, amongst others.
These types of sensors are proving critical to both the testing and the treatment process. Utilising wireless delivery and remote monitoring capabilities to alert and monitor conditions and symptoms in near real-time will be critical for containing COVID-19.
This type of proactive, real-time acquisition of critical health data is absolutely vital to save lives and contain future pandemics: events which our globalised economy is ever-more vulnerable to, and which both stimulate mass panic and can utterly overwhelm emergency services.
Healthcare: Improved Service and Lower Costs
For healthcare, sensor technology is a key component of improving quality, reducing costs, and providing equal access to essential services. By improving remote monitoring and telemedicine capabilities, sensor technology could in turn significantly reduce ever-lengthening patient wait times. This becomes more important with each passing year, as our aging population places ever more pressure on our already strained healthcare institutions.
Global Healthcare: Equal Access, Shared Resources
Remote health monitoring removes barriers to critical information access and allows for the pooling and sharing of healthcare resources between developed and developing nations. For example, sensor technology can allow for individuals in the global south to receive remote medical monitoring from physicians, health and medical professionals from around the world. Sensor technology can also allow for the rapid deployment of mobile hospitals globally to support healthcare needs.
Cecilia Harvey is CEO of Hyve Dynamics, a UK company producing patented sensor skin technology for improving the precision of biometric health data.