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Digital technology's key role in a post COVID-19 world
Working as a global, cross-disciplinary team, we identified four key areas in which data assists disease control.
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A key role for digital technology in managing our emergence from the coronavirus crisis

The fight against visceral leishmaniasis (VL), a potentially fatal parasitic disease, offers some lessons for controlling and overcoming COVID-19.

An international consortium KalaCORE, with funding from the UK government, has helped to turn the tide against VL in south Asia and east Africa. The programme focused on improving access to prompt diagnosis and effective treatment, training healthworkers, equipping health centres, raising community awareness, and bolstering national surveillance systems.

We acted as managing agent, additionally providing data management expertise that has assisted the targeting of resources. Diverse and rich data were brought together in our web-based platform, Moata Geospatial, to monitor the spread of VL.

Moata Geospatial enables data to be securely stored and structured, and accessed by multiple users. Data is displayed graphically, showing the spatial distribution of disease incidences through time. Analysis revealed underlying factors influencing infection in different locations.

Working as a global, cross-disciplinary team, we identified four key areas in which data assists disease control (combining public and private sector data):

Healthcare supply chain

  • Availability of clinical and general supplies
  • Resource allocation and logistics
  • Utilisation of allocated resources

Medical waste management

  • Quantum of infected waste
  • Disposal capacity

Testing

  • Testing capacity
  • Test quality assurance

Quality of life

  • Access to healthcare services
  • Effects of income and employment on health
  • Transmission by mobile and migrant workers

The aim of the project was to eliminate VL as a public health problem, with a target of less than one case per 10,000 people. Good progress was achieved, with cases declining in three main endemic countries – Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Our client, the UK Department for International Development, says: “There has been strong progress in eliminating VL as a public health problem. Fatality has fallen faster than expected, and the programme has strengthened government systems including surveillance and monitoring.”

Experience of tracking and targeting VL in south Asia is directly transferable to the fight against COVID-19. The Moata Geospatial toolset introduces a range of benefits that specifically address the challenges in the short- and long-term, assisting an effective response to infection. Specific benefits are improved decision-making, resilience and collaboration.

Key challenges stemming from the coronavirus lockdown

Decision making

  • Lack of information at point of need
  • Missing historic and live performance data
  • Greater number of decisions to be made
  • Novel/atypical decisions to be made quickly

Resilience

  • Critical short-term interventions to mitigate the effects of the crisis
  • Dynamic situation requiring continual re-evaluation
  • Adjustment to reduced revenues and changed use/demand patterns
  • Unclear where and how to invest best for future

Collaboration

  • Maintaining productivity while working remotely
  • Changing objectives
  • Siloed manual data and unconnected systems
  • Disrupted project teams and supply chains

Moata Geospatial is part of our smart infrastructure proposition. Simply, smart infrastructure involves collecting and connecting data to inform better decision-making.

Smart infrastructure solutions can be developed to address immediate and long-term healthcare challenges – and realise opportunities for healthcare providers and the communities they serve. Quick wins can be achieved by developing and piloting solutions to challenges at small scale, testing, proving, improving and scaling up as needed. Some digital solutions to here-and-now problems may only have short use-lives, but others will deliver lasting value.

Bottom-up: quick wins

  • Address most pressing challenges
  • Pilot
  • Prove and scale
  • Reap benefits, build momentum

Top-down: a lasting legacy

  • Articulate an outcomes-based vision
  • Build the roadmap
  • Deliver
  • Monitor

The key is to drive transformation and build out from both ends.

We take five simple steps to developing practical, affordable smart infrastructure solutions.

  1. Focus efforts: Identify key stakeholders for cross-disciplinary collaboration and stakeholder integration, facilitated by a multidisciplinary integrator
  2. Key opportunities: Discover key challenges and issues faced by stakeholders
  3. Engage experts: Hybrid team of subject matter experts, leaders from MM and partners to analyse and prioritise challenges
  4. Connect thinking: Challenge-led innovation, involving human centred design, science and technology
  5. Identify solutions: Solutions list assessed against cost and practicality for different scenarios ready for pilot/launch

Protecting against COVID-19 and future pandemics

Connected data provides better visibility of the status of the disease and the means at hand to fight it. It enables improved decisions about how to respond, showing critical gaps and potential opportunities. These are among the key data sets that should be combined and interrogated to understand the status of the disease and accelerate recovery:

COVID-19

  • Confirmed, recovered and fatal cases
  • COVID-19 epidemiology
  • Lockdown measures enforced
  • Testing quality assurance

People

  • National and international migration
  • Access to healthcare
  • Population demographic
  • Social care for the vulnerable

Infrastructure

  • Hospitals and intensive care beds
  • Transport networks and supply chains
  • Water and electricity networks
  • Clinical laboratories

Key workers

  • Healthcare professionals and volunteers
  • Emergency responders
  • Security
  • Shared knowledge and experience

Resources

  • Ventilators and PPE (in use and stored)
  • Grocery stores and food banks
  • COVID-19 testing kits
  • Future vaccines

Logistics

  • Tracking movement of key equipment, resources and people
  • Supply and demand assessments
  • Geospatial data
  • Legacy pandemics informed early warnings

Moata Geospatial key benefits

Decision making: Spatial visualisation of data, real time data analytics tools, dashboards and KPIs

Resilience: Scaleable to include new data sources, configurable to meet changing requirements, digital twin platform for future use

Collaboration: Accessible online platform for remote working, understand the national impacts of local changes, single source of the truth for communication

Hannah Collins

Digital transformation consultant

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