China is utilizing healthcare tech as the best coronavirus response in the face of what is quickly becoming an epidemic. Over 90,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease.
In China, healthcare tech is the best coronavirus response
In a country where smartphone sales are in for a major financial plummet, it’s easy to assume that technology is the last resource China would want to utilize in the current coronavirus outbreak. And yet, that’s exactly what China is doing. A number of Chinese tech companies are bringing their very best to the forefront of the national scene to fight an outbreak that is comparable to the deadly SARS outbreak in the early 2000s.
The largest tech sources of defense in the current outbreak are surveillance and robots.
The first coronavirus response: Robotic healthcare tech
Shenzhen Chinese company MicroMultiCopter is giving its drones to the coronavirus outbreak. The drones specialize in contactless delivery. They carry medical samples (blood, urine, saliva, etc.) to medical clinics and hospitals. They also use thermal imaging to examine passengers at an airport, for example, and determine whether or not they have a fever. Thermal imaging works for fevers, body temperature issues, and issues surrounding the neck and nervous system.
Robots also staff hospitals and medical clinics. It’s no secret that medical staff and personnel get tired and need rest. While they’re resting or off on weekends, robots can staff medical centers and do everything from collect samples to run necessary tests on patients. Robots can conduct tests and report results back to doctors and medical staff. Additionally, robots also help keep places clean by sanitizing them. This is important in the current coronavirus outbreak where global citizens continue to hear the phrase “wash your hands” on the daily news.
Robot Food Catering
Apart from running tests and sanitizing areas, robots also deliver meals to isolated patients infected with coronavirus. Chinese catering robot company Pudu Technology is giving its robots to staff over 40 hospitals in China. Remember, the Chinese doctor who reported the coronavirus outbreak weeks before China contacted the CDC died from the outbreak. A number of doctors and nurses can get sick from coronavirus and need replacing to help hospital patients.
Artificial intelligence, a tool that helps users access the information they need, is also diagnosing coronavirus cases. Chinese commerce company Alibaba says it’s using AI to identify coronavirus cases. So far, Alibaba’s AI coronavirus detection system is 96% accurate, according to the company. The Jack Ma Foundation says it’s giving $2.15 million to developing a vaccine. Developing vaccines to treat illnesses takes large sums of money for research and development. There’s also animal testing, which means the purchase of animals requires money.
Surveillance: facial detection and temperature monitoring
When Chinese companies are not using robotic healthcare tech, they’re turning to facial recognition and temperature-monitoring technologies. Temperature-monitoring comes in the form of smart helmets and detection software. Smart helmets monitor the head and body temperatures of helmet wearers within a 5-mile radius. When a person’s temperature elevates above normal levels, an alarm sounds to alert others that the individual is sick.
China’s efforts in facial detection are noticeable. Readers can recall China’s Close Contact Detector app. It allows Chinese citizens to input their governmental number to determine if they have been in contact with a coronavirus patient. Facial detection also works to determine if citizens are experiencing a rise in body temperature. Other apps such as Alipay Health Code and WeChat work to detect potential virus carriers.
American can learn a thing or two from China
Some argue that privacy is a big reason to distrust Chinese technology, even in healthcare. Others point to China’s healthcare tech as something gimmicky that’s flexing China’s political muscles. But there’s no denying that America’s response to coronavirus shows that, unlike China, it isn’t ready for the coronavirus outbreak.
For one, America’s response to coronavirus has been slow. America should have started on vaccines immediately when receiving word that the virus was spreading massively in China and South Korea. It didn’t. The US only allowed coronavirus confirmations through the CDC instead of allowing local hospitals and med clinics to diagnose cases. It took the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declaring a woman “safe” from coronavirus who, after quarantine release, was found infected, to move the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow local hospitals to create coronavirus testing kits.
China’s technological prowess may not be enough to prevent another SARS-like outbreak, but at least it’s the best response a nation can give in what could become the worst pandemic of a century or more.
Currently, there are a few companies in the US creating coronavirus vaccines: Novavax, Heat Biologics (gp96 platform), Gilead Sciences, Moderna, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson.