Using Technology to Combat COVID-19

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While the world is gradually accepting the challenge and adapting to various safety measures occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new health app, Health Monitoring Service Nigeria, has been launched as a soothing balm to further mitigate the spread of the virus pending the discovery of vaccine. Rebecca Ejifoma writes

When COVID-19 hit Nigeria this March, many feared for their safety. At first, it was the fact that it affected those with existing ailments the most, and then those whose immune systems were rather feeble, especially among the aged and the children.

Sadly, this orchestrated nationwide lockdown which further deepened the already struggling economy of the country as well as aggravated the endemic unemployment rate across the country.

It was in a bid to create a soothing balm to the health problems that the new health monitoring service app was launched in Lagos recently.

The Managing Director and CEO OOK Group Nigeria Limited, Omolara Svensson, said it is all out to give Nigerians peace of mind, coupled with hysteria over their COVID-19 status using technology solution this time.

Part of the features of the app is to give peace of mind from COVID-19 status, help Nigerians live their lives until vaccine is made available, and also keeps Nigerians ahead of the pack in productivity, reduce cost of care and improve patients ‘ experiences and outcomes.

Svensson emphasised that the health technology company, Isle of Man, works with health technologists to improve the health of people.

“When COVID-19 broke out, that put everyone on his toes to find a solution not just the scientists in terms of looking for a vaccine to either cure or prevent it but also health technology companies had to go back to their drawing books on how to contain the virus,” she noted.

The CEO, while acknowledging that vaccine is not something that is going to happen overnight, argued that the health monitoring app became necessary as substitute until there is a vaccine for it. This birthed the idea of the app.

Although she resides abroad, Svensson has brought the app to be launched in Nigeria, her country. “This is the first place it is being launched in Africa. Internally, between OOK Group and our partners, this has been test run”.

In her words, the CEO attested the app’s functionality when she said “We have been using it for a while and it gives a lot of peace of mind”.

She recalled also an incident of coming in contact with those who contracted the virus. “Personally, a couple of times there were people I had contact with that came down with the COVID-19 a couple of weeks we have had contact. Honestly I was not bothered because all I had to do was to go check my severity level and I am fine.”

How the App Works

While there is individual subscription, there is corporate subscription, too. “If you are a staff in a company, the human resource department or whoever is in charge does the subscription for all staff,” says Svensson.

A link will be sent to every staff, she continued, so that they do their subscription themselves without the company having access to their data.

Accordingly, other features include subscribers required to put in their data twice daily for about five to seven days to be able to determine if they have been exposed or contracted COVID-19.

On the severity rating, the CEO added that it is divided into three parts. “Green is low risk of having COVID-19 severity level one to three. Amber is mild risk; at this stage self isolate. Red is a high risk of having COVID-19 and should seek immediate medical intervention and isolation.”

Svensson said that the system was built in a way that ensures adequate security. Data ownership is taken very serious with the HMSN, hence, the reason they have integrated such a high-tech personal identification system.

“The registered client of the service is the owner of all of their own data. They assign viewing rights to their personal data via the platform,” she noted.

Mr. Dion Croom, Founder/CEO, National Health Monitoring Services Limited, Isle of Man, who echoed Svensson, gave graphical illustrations of how the app works and its easy-to-access features for both individuals and corporate bodies.

Among the four ambassadors for the app is Nollywood ace actress, Shola Sobowale best known as Toyin Tomato, who called on Nigerians to the come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 is real.

“It is real. It is not a death sentence but you wouldn’t actually know when your body reacts to it. So, please prevention is better than cure. That is why the health monitoring service comes in,” she added.

With her transparent face shield jealously veiling her face from possible fluids, Sobowale implored everyone to download the app and monitor his or her own health. “At the end of it all, health is wealth,” she concluded.

Speaking on the role of technology as a challenge of under contact tracing, Dr. Tolulope Akin-Fawole of Lagos State Ministry of Environment, noted that indeed there is a gap that needs to be filled. “We have read that google and Apple have an exposure notification. And this is an app on our various platforms to assist in visual and public health agencies”.

In this situation if this gap is filled, she said, it can go a long way in helping to answer questions pertaining to contact tracing.

Although she described contact tracing as the process of monitoring persons who have been exposed an infected person or case, she further elongated it as a central public health response to infectious disease outbreak.

“Importation of the new Sars-Cov-2 from China to other parts of the world, highlights the need to understand the impact of contact tracing as a control measure,” she hinted during her presentation. Hence, mobile apps like the newly launched HMSN can increase the effectiveness of contact tracing compared to conventional approaches.