Battling Infectious Diseases With Emerging Technologies

Luciana Uhlemann

There is no more challenging, loving, and rewarding job than being a parent. The moment light hits your newborn’s skin, you are hit by a wave of new responsibilities. The hospital staff congratulates your new family addition and, at the same time, hands over a set of pre-planned pediatric appointments to check on your newborn’s health and development.

At the first appointment, you learn your baby is due for a vaccine (possibly the first vaccine). Depending on your beliefs, you might fully trust the pediatrician and let him or her vaccinate your baby. However, you might also nicely thank the doctor for reminding you about the benefits of vaccination and opt for a vaccine-free child.

Infectious disease epidemics growing

Regardless of the controversies and debates happening worldwide about the benefits and side effects of vaccines, the increasing number of infectious diseases epidemics is obvious. Since 2017, for instance, there has been a significant increase in the number of measles outbreaks all over the world. Just in New South Wales, Australia, there have already been at least 10 measles warnings issued since the beginning of 2019.

Challenges faced by public health institutions

Public health institutions are responsible for responding to outbreaks and issuing warnings to the public in order to avoid disease proliferation and challenge the rising costs associated with treatment. They must optimize the timing and types of warnings to help reduce the spread of disease within their funding limitations.

Emerging technologies can help public health agencies overcome these challenges and protect vulnerable individuals, such as newborns and seniors, from an outbreak. A digital platform can help identify high-risk areas and speed up prevention responses.

A digital platform approach can help agencies:

  1. Collect details on vaccination rates across regions and on current and past outbreaks
  1. Import and process data in a unique platform, providing a single source of truth for further engaging native technology capabilities
  1. Process geospatial location data, combining – in real-time – its insights with machine learning algorithms for better understanding and prevention of outbreaks
  1. Share results and insights with health and government institutions, schools, and home care providers

By using detailed information like geolocation of affected individuals, a timeline can be built on top of a world map to help identify:

  • Community disease risk (herd immunity) where there is a higher incidence of non-vaccinated individuals
  • Specific movements and trend areas where an outbreak incidence is higher
  • Proximity of high-risk incidence areas to low herd immunity

The value of advanced analytics

Advanced analytics combined with specific machine learning algorithms could identify patterns and map them into clusters to better understand the movement of epidemics and help prevent further incidents. These algorithms could help leverage non-obvious behavior in the collected data, opening space to efficiently consider possibilities that might not be noticed otherwise.

Although we cannot guarantee that emerging technologies will eradicate infectious diseases, they can help the medical community by automating how cases are tracked and speeding the response once new cases are reported, especially when confronting the problem of low community (herd) immunity.

Learn more about how SAP has been working with partners in the healthcare space and helping the digital transformation journey.

Luciana Uhlemann

About Luciana Uhlemann

Luciana has over 15 years’ experience in the software industry, having dedicated more than 2/3 of this time to SAP both in Germany and in Australia. Acting as a Solutions Engineer for the Intelligent Enterprise, she is part of the Digital Transformation Office in Australia and New Zealand. With a strong focus on her customers she value understanding their needs and serve as a trusted advisor helping find the most suitable solutions to make their business run better, simpler and faster. Based in Sydney she is a woman who embraces diversity, a professional thirsty for knowledge.