As we move forward from this Thanksgiving Season, it is very difficult to feel positive feelings about the impact of this COVID pandemic. On the horizon there is yet another variant which has already emerged and may threaten our world yet again.
We continue to feel the impact of this pandemic physically, emotionally and psychologically. For those of us who are working with students we are very concerned about them and their ability to cope with life stressors. Teachers are struggling to figure out how to provide quality education with such dysregulated students and counselors are overwhelmed with their needs.
Tom Lawry, the Director of Artificial Intelligence, Health and Life Sciences at Microsoft wrote a recent article in Forbes magazine that focuses on what we have learned from this pandemic, how our health services have responded and what the future holds because of the experience. Here are some excerpts from this article:
…..the Allen Institute for AI, National Institute of Health (NIH) and others leveraged something known as natural language processing (NLP) to fuse together 47,000 scholarly articles and studies in a matter of weeks.
As pandemic pandemonium set in among citizens, Microsoft created a Covid bot and made it available for free to health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Forty million people used the Covid bot to get accurate information and a sense of comfort.
As Covid was highly infectious, clinicians and health organizations turned to telemedicine. Before the pandemic, only 43% of health centers were capable of providing telemedicine services. By the end of the first phase of the outbreak, 95% of health centers were using it.
Meanwhile, pharma and biotech companies faced impossible odds in compressing the time it would take to get a vaccine from the lab into the shoulders of consumers. AI evened the odds by improving the precision and speed of drug development while de-risking the process.
Not to be left behind, consumers used connected devices and AI-driven apps to manage their top health concerns. In the first six months of the pandemic, downloads of mental health apps rose 200%. Diet and weight loss app usage climbed by 1,294%, while downloads of apps to help manage diabetes jumped by 482%.
The pandemic challenged and changed all of us. It also taught us three valuable lessons:
1. When individuals and populations are healthy, everything works. When they are not, the interconnectedness of health to the economy, job security and family safety becomes painfully and dangerously obvious.
2. Health systems and health leaders are capable of agile transformation when faced with a big challenge. An industry known for changing at glacial speed suddenly began moving at warp speed.
3. AI and intelligent health works. When properly curated and applied, these tools and solutions deliver a rapid time-to-value for health providers and consumers alike.
Truly we have seen a revolution in healthcare. We have learned to adapt to extreme circumstances and have developed vaccines, treatments and hopeful outcomes that we may have never experienced as a society. This is not to minimize our losses for they have been completely overwhelming. But as this crisis has continued to emerge, we are advancing in adapting technology, connectedness, healthcare options and other tools to cope with the challenges that have been revolutionary.
I so admire those who have emerged with new ideas, curative constructs and innovation that have revolutionized our world. Just as COVID has taken away so much we still have more to learn, more to innovate and more to overcome even in a global pandemic. It is still possible to have hope and create new avenues to overcome life’s toughest obstacles. In the midst of such tragedy, we will emerge with new ways to think about all the possibilities before us!