The ongoing pandemic has greatly accelerated the rise of digital technology in healthcare.

As the pandemic continues to sweep across the world, causing unprecedented disruption to the economy and posing a constant threat of overwhelming healthcare services, the need for digital transformation has never been greater. Already, our everyday lives have been changed beyond measure by stay-at-home orders and closed schools and businesses. All the while, even highly effective healthcare services in developed countries are buckling under the strain.

But with vaccination now underway in many countries, there is finally hope on the horizon. Technology is critical to scaling the monumental task of vaccinating billions of people, as well as the testing that will be needed for years to come to isolate and mitigate localized outbreaks. Emerging solutions like artificial intelligence are helping to scale testing and vaccination and automate critical manufacturing processes, to name a few examples.

What are COVID-19 tests, and how do they work?

While a vaccine is the most powerful weapon against the coronavirus, testing remains a vital part of the overall strategy. Regular testing will continue to help, even once the pandemic has been brought under control. Not only does it allow epidemiologists to track outbreaks and get them under control before they spread across the wider community – they can also help test the efficacy of vaccines. Furthermore, testing helps those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical or other reasons.

COVID-19 tests broadly fall into two main categories. There are tests designed to diagnose a current infection, and others to determine whether a patient previously had SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Diagnostic tests for current infections include molecular testing and antigen testing, while antibody tests detect past infections.

Molecular testing

Molecular testing involves taking a sample of saliva or other bodily fluid using a nasal or throat swab. The sample is then analyzed on a molecular level to detect genetic material belonging to the virus. By far the most common method is the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test.

The FDA has also authorized a direct-to-consumer molecular testing system, allowing patients to collect samples at home before shipping them off to the laboratory for analysis. The testing kits do not require any prescription.

RT-PCR testing has become the gold standard, since it is the most accurate. According to research curated by the CDC, RT-PCR tests yielded a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 98.9% in symptomatic patients. In asymptomatic patients, these figures stand at 41.2% and 98.4% respectively. Moreover, these figures give the testing a confidence level of 95%, making them far more reliable than other methods.

Antigen testing

Antigen testing is also done using a nasal or throat swab. It works by identifying fragments of the viral protein, known as antigens. Antigen tests are readily available from pharmacies and other medical facilities without a prescription, so they can be used at home. They also deliver much faster results, since samples do not need to be analyzed in a laboratory. In this respect, they work rather like a rapid strep test or pregnancy test, delivering results in minutes.

The main drawback of antigen testing is that it is not as accurate as RT-PCR testing. Because of this, the FDA does not recommend relying on it entirely. Negative antigen test results should ideally be verified with a RT-PCR test, since false negative results occur much more frequently than they do with molecular tests.

Antibody testing

Antibody testing determines whether patients have previously been infected with the virus by detecting antibodies in the blood. Because this method requires a blood sample, it can only be done at a medical facility. Results are typically available within a few days. Accuracy rates vary heavily depending on when the test is taken, due to the fact it takes a week or two for the body produce antibodies following an infection. Antibody levels can decay after a few months, making it uncertain how long immunity lasts.

How are digital platforms enabling mass-testing?

Without digital technology, it would be all but impossible to scale with the massive demand of testing and vaccinating billions of people around the world.

Thanks to digitized healthcare, it is now possible to complete digital intake forms and schedule online consultations. For example, popular video conferencing platform Zoom has launched a plan that caters specifically for the needs of the healthcare sector. Now fully HIPAA-compliant to protect patient privacy, general practitioners and other healthcare professionals can use Zoom, among other platforms, for holding online consultations. Doing so allows them to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to both themselves and their patients.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has greatly accelerated the demand for telemedicine. When it comes to COVID-19 testing, patients can now attend online appointments and use their home testing kits to collect specimens with real-time guidance and supervision. They can then send the specimen package using a specialized return shipping container provided by the lab and receive results by email or text message. It typically takes up to 24 hours to receive a result, which is far quicker than it is without the help of digital technology.

Similar methods will prove instrumental in rolling out mass vaccination campaigns as well. In fact, many countries are using the same systems they have been relying on for months in their testing and contact-tracing strategies for vaccinations. That said, the need for regular testing, especially in high-risk environments, such as healthcare facilities themselves, will stay for the foreseeable future.

How is SDI Labs using technology to help fight COVID-19?

SDI Labs depends heavily on digital technology to meet patient needs during the pandemic. Our web-based form allows patients to order RT-PCR tests online, and we can supervise and guide patients through the home-testing process via Zoom. We can then communicate results to patients via email, while maintaining patient privacy according to HIPAA regulations.

We have also implemented an AI-based system to better identify false positives and negatives from point-of-care antigen testing kits. This is especially important, given that antigen testing has a relatively low accuracy rate in the region of 60 to 80%. Our proprietary system analyzes patient intake data to determine the likelihood of patients being negative or positive, before matching those insights alongside actual test results.

Moreover, our labs management system allows us to scale capacity according to patient demand, while our integrated customer relationship management platform allows us to deliver faster and more efficient patient support.

Final words

While it will likely be some years before the pandemic can truly be declared over everywhere in the world, the digitization of healthcare will only become more important. The pandemic has simply highlighted the preexisting need to streamline healthcare and provide better outcomes, and these priorities are always going to be the primary goals of the sector.

SDI Labs relies on digital innovation to adapt and scale to the rapidly evolving needs of today’s healthcare sector. Our proven four-step COVID-19 testing model is helping us achieve optimal outcomes, with test results delivered by post or email within 24 hours. Order your test today.

Coronavirus hit the world in January 2020, and one thing is clear. It has shifted the dynamics of the world completely. Entire organizations have been disrupted and some have even been forced to declare themselves as bankrupt. Massive layoffs have taken place. Employees have had to face pay-cuts. In fact, they also experienced a change in corporate culture. With lockdown orders in place and orders that prevented people from gathering in one place, organizations had no choice but to shift people at home and ask them to work from there.

Employees have had to adapt to a new work culture. Previously, they were made to feel part of the organization. They could also socialize with other employees. Now, while being at home, employees also had to deal with feelings of isolation. Human Resources also had to face changes and are continuing to do so. It seems as if the entire corporate world has been hit hard by the Pandemic and is now trying to find its place. In this article, we will look into how the corporate world has changed with the advent of the virus and what HR is doing.

The role of the HR

HR professionals are now concerned with employees’ well-being and they also have the burden of processing paperwork for the employees who are being laid-off. Moreover, they also have to fire employees because of the Pandemic and perhaps bring in fresh talent to replace them. For employees still on the job, HR managers are trying to make the workers more productive, motivated and connected. However, the job has come with challenges. Therefore, there are some steps that HR must take to stay ahead of the game.

Systemic Thinking: To survive, businesses have to become more adaptable. They have to be flexible and move with speed and agility. This is one of the things HR can heavily influence. It is in one of the best positions to see the overall process and offer a strong perspective on how things need to be done. It can ensure proper communication, coordination, and collaboration across units and business groups. HR can also reprioritize the business’s role to adapt to the changing customer demands and markets set forth by COVID-19. Since it has access to all the employees of various departments, it can ensure the process is carried out flawlessly.

Company culture: Since the company culture has been altered directly, HR has to ensure that employees still feel like they are part of the organization. To do this, HR is conducting a culture assessment to close the gap between the desired and current culture. Since HR is the best department to motivate people to adapt to change, it helps the organization adapt to the change.

Providing strong leaders: A strong leader is needed, particularly in trying times to help the organization navigate the Pandemic. HR plays a fundamental role in developing leaders and ensures that they will be successful by holding them to a higher standard. It is HR’s job to provide the leaders with the skills they need to control and manage the company from a distance by giving them proper training. It should also provide employees with clarity. 

Remote work

One of the biggest changes that the Pandemic brought with it is remote work. And that change is probably here to stay. However, the concept of remote working was not entirely new. Even before the Coronavirus hit, virtual work was being done. In the US, the number of people who were telecommuting in US increased 159 percent between 2005 and 2017, according to the data from Flexjobs. The data also indicated that 4.7 million in the US were telecommuting. This is a figure that has increased from 3.9 million in 2015.

Just a couple of weeks into the virus, the WHO declared the Coronavirus as a pandemic on March 11. Since then, almost 16 million US workers have transitioned to remote work. The number grew even more as states started to bring in lockdown orders.

Major companies such as Twitter and Square announced that their workers could remotely indefinitely, while Facebook and Google announced that the workers could work from home for the rest of the year. It seems that in the corporate world, the new policy is work from home…at least for those jobs that don’t require in-person presence.

The impact of work from home on workers

While it will be a new normal in the long run, it might not be that way in the short run. A study conducted by slack.com showed that first-time remote workers could feel lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed. They might also feel distracted and disconnected from the company as they have not had a chance to interact with anyone from the company.

For old time workers, it is mixed. Remote work has been shown to increase worker productivity, leading to isolation and stress as the line between work and home starts to blur. Managers also believe that the team would not work well as creativity is suppressed. For workers who have children, schools’ closure places an extra burden on them as they are expected to supervise their children while working from home.

However, there are pros to working from home as well. For starters, when the workers are working from home, they have the flexibility to work on their hours. Of course, while the employees are expected to be on time for virtual meetings, the fact is they can work on the hours they feel comfortable. Some people are just not morning people. As a result, they were never very comfortable ingoing to work so early. Now, with flexible timings, they can do so easily.

Some workers also enjoy working from home because they have the freedom to do as they please. At work, sometimes, managers supervise to the point of micromanaging their employees. It can leave employees feeling helpless and frustrated. At home, they are given the autonomy to do their work, which increases the level of motivation that employees have.

A plus for the company is also a decrease in the number of sick leaves. When employees work from home, they are less likely to take an off as it does not entail coming to the office and sitting with other people. They can work from the comfort of their beds without getting anyone else sick in the process. It is a significant win for both parties.

The future of work from home

Some experts claim that work from home is here to stay. This means in the future; we will see more people taking remote work positions. Activities that require the use of lab equipment or operating heavy machinery cannot, of course, be done remotely. Similarly, a job entailing driving a vehicle cannot be done remotely. Such activities require people to come in and work from the site. Otherwise, there can be no work done at all.

On the other hand, data processing or information-gathering can be done remotely. Employees need not come in. All they have to do is sit in front of their laptop, and the work can be done. However, once again, we have to be careful about the nature of the work. While it is true data can be analyzed remotely, data has to be collected sometimes in person, especially if one is carrying out a survey. Once again, there can be no generalizations.

In advanced economies particularly, there is great potential to do the work remotely. Jobs in business, insurance, and financial services account for a significant share of jobs. They also have a lower share in agricultural occupations, which allows for the transition to remote work.

Therefore, as the world moves forward, remote work can be expected. However, experts claim that it will be in hybrid form with some employees working from home, while others will come to the site, depending on the skills required. McKinsey carried out a survey of 800 corporate executives globally, and 38% of the respondents stated that they expected their employees to continue work from home after the Pandemic.

There are implications for working from home as well. It can increase the inequalities by providing flexibility and lower costs to the workers who can work remotely while increasing the jobs’ precariousness that cannot be done remotely. For women, it might lead to more domestic violence and place a greater burden on them as women are expected to play the role of the homemaker in addition to being an employee.

In the field of technology

Reuters.com conducted a study that indicated that the percentage of remote workers around the world would double in 2021 as productivity showed an increase, especially as decision-makers expected permanent remote workers to double to 34.4% in 2021. Previously, in the IT companies, the figure was only 16.4%.

How companies implemented work from home

For instance, Activision Blizzar, a video game company in California, moved 99 percent of the workforce at home. They already had a work from home policy. However, it was not evolved enough to support work from home on such a huge scale. According to the chief people officer, Claudine Naughton, the remote work policy did not take into account supporting employees who were dealing with kids or other dependents at home.

This meant they had to make even more adjustments to the work from home policy. HR was required to give its employees more flexibility, especially when it came to working hours. The company did so after much discussion. However, this was something they had never done before.

As the pandemic spread, HR also thought of new policies to cope with health-related issues. The company covered all tests, and the employees were given access to doctors if they became ill and needed medical help. It was not only for the employees but also for their family members’ health costs. The goal was for the employees to feel more comfortable while transitioning to work from home and to ensure that the productivity level was maintained.

The company also provided manager resources for the leaders, which they could use to help the teams, keep them more focused on the task at hand and encourage them to attend the daily meetings at a specific time. This company also placed contingency plans for people with specific skills who might be absent.

It was relatively easier for large tech companies to transition to remote working as they had policies that were already in place. They did not face much of a problem.

Last words

It seems that the Coronavirus has impacted the world. Things might never go back to the way they were. Therefore, it’s best that the employees feel comfortable working from their homes as this might just be the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be one of the deadliest pandemics of all time. The ability of this harmful virus to spread instantaneously and to lie undetected has thrown the world into turmoil.

Coronavirus originally broke out in a Chinese poultry market in December of 2019. Ever since then, economies have faced a downfall all over the world. Up to the publication of this article, about 89.7 million people have been affected worldwide, with about 49.8 million people recovering within a few weeks and 1.93 million losing their lives.

This article will cover all the updated and latest details of the COVID-19 vaccine, its efficiency, and testing requirements. We will also go through the mechanism of action of T-cells.

Preparation Of the COVID-19 Vaccine

The great majority of individuals are still prone to viral infection. The only thing preventing more unnecessary deaths are the present limits and restrictions. It would be fair to say that social distancing has helped a lot.

Right now, there is a dire need for the administration of the coronavirus vaccine. Fortunately, the vaccine will be available to the masses very soon. Vaccinations are the best escape plans for outbreaks, as they prepare our bodies to fight with the parasite.

Prior to the actual commercial usage among the public, vaccines normally need years of analysis and experimentations. However, researchers began working on the COVID-19 vaccine immediately and completed the trials in a minimum amount of time.

Testing procedure for COVID-19 vaccinations

The vaccinations are only authorized after complete analysis and research. Currently, the coronavirus vaccinations being introduced have undergone the following series of steps.

1. Preclinical Tests

Experts evaluate samples for a potent vaccine and then test them on animals like mice or monkeys to see whether an antibody reaction is produced.

2. Security Tests

Scientists inject a selected number of healthy individuals with a shot to monitor its efficacy and safe dosage. They also ensure that it activates the immune function.

3. Detailed Testing

To evaluate the success rate of vaccines in different people, researchers categorize hundreds of individuals into different age groups. These experiments also examine the security of the vaccination.

4. Efficiency Testing

Researchers calculate and compare the results of vaccination in the experimental and control groups. These experiments decide whether the vaccination will safeguard against a healthy viral strain. Furthermore, other tests are also conducted to look for any possible side effects.

5. Early Authorization

Consistent with earlier data that they too are reliable and efficient, Britain and other nations have started providing urgent approval for vaccines. On the other hand, China and Russia have accepted vaccinations without checking the outcome of Phase 3 tests, which scientists believe are at significant risk.

6. Complete Authorization

Regulatory bodies evaluate the full findings of the tests and allow the manufacturing of the vaccine. Besides, they determine whether they should grant it clearance or not.

7. Combined Phases

Combining phases are another method to improve vaccine production. For example, some vaccines are currently in phase 1/2 trials, which will add up this monitor as both phase 1 and phase 2.

8. Suspension

Researchers will stop the trials if inspectors detect worrying signs in participants. The trials can continue or get suspended after an examination.

Recent Coronavirus Vaccines

Fortunately, researchers have successfully developed three coronavirus vaccinations. These vaccines have been authorized and licensed. Even though WHO hasn’t authorized any of them yet, recent assessments have yielded positive results.

Testing of several candidates has brought fruitful results. The recent anticipations regarding corona vaccinations are constantly being updated. Here are the three vaccinations that have been rolled out.

Moderna Vaccination

This vaccine is based on the utilization of small parts of the virus’s DNA code. Hence, it is also known as RNA vaccination. The vaccine works by familiarizing the body with the coronavirus. After the creation of a weak strain in the body, the body prepares itself to fight the original danger that is to intrude.

This vaccination is special in the sense that

  • It can save and defend about 94.5 percent of people from the virus, as claimed by the firm.
  • The vaccine is provided in two shots with intervals of four weeks.
  • It is already being implemented by the UK. About 17 million doses have been ordered and will be available in the spring.
  • Thirty thousand individuals have participated in the trials.
  • It is similar to the Pfizer vaccine in its working mechanism but can be stored at -20 degrees celsius for half a year.

Pfizer-BioNtech Vaccination

This vaccine’s credibility was initially proclaimed in November. The only drawback, however, is its transportation and storage. It is stable at a temperature of -70 degrees celsius and must be transported in an optimized case.

It has a success rate of 95% and is given in 2 shots, with time intervals of 3 weeks. Moreover, the UK has pre-ordered 40 million shots.

The vaccine-implementation process of Pfizer-BioNtech to tackle COVID-19 includes:

  1. Transportation of the vaccine shots to the designated country in optimized dry ice cases with an amount of five thousand per vehicle
  2. Storage of vaccination shots in the ‘freezer farm’ that has the capability of storing shots for up to half a year at around -70 degrees celsius
  3. Transportation of Pfizer-BioNtech corona vaccine to the clinics in 10 days
  4. Storage of the shots in a fridge for up to 5 days if necessary

AstraZeneca Vaccination

This vaccine was finally announced on 5 January by Oxford. The authorization was given after the results were visible. Besides, these shots are popular for helping older people as they enhance their immune systems.

Moreover, the vaccination is provided in 2 shots. It is stable at comparatively greater temperatures, making it efficient for transport. Lastly, the shots are made from induced feeble impressions of the common cold virus from chimpanzees.

The manufacturing process of this vaccination includes

  1. The addition of spike proteins from the coronavirus and a benign virus
  2. Injection of the vaccine into the patient
  3. The creation of antibodies in the person’s body in reaction to the spike protein
  4. Activation of T-cells for the annihilation of spike proteins

Immune System Cells Fighting Against The Virus

Many of the citizens have regular exposure to viruses. Our body’s way of fighting off viruses is distinct from how we battle bacteria. Viruses can only live within our tissues and spread. This helps them to “cover” themselves from our immune response.

The cell releases cytokines as the virus attacks the tissues and signals other cells to clear the contamination. In particular, this warning stops other cells from getting contaminated. Unfortunately, this defensive technique can be outsmarted by certain viruses and result in the propagation of the disease.

T-cells and NK cells are notified of a viral attack and migrate to the location where the individual cells harboring the virus are destroyed.

As several of our cells can be destroyed in the cycle, this is a very damaging method for destroying the virus. Nonetheless, eradicating the virus is a successful operation.

The T-lymphocytes destroy the virus at the very same time, and they also advise the B-lymphocytes to develop antibodies.

When our cells encounter the same virus for the second time, the antibodies effectively deter the illness. Memory T-cells are also developed and help tackle the second infection easily. It also contributes to a relatively gentle infection path.

Effects of Vaccinations On COVID-19 Pandemic

Some variables rely on the effects of the COVID-19 vaccinations on the disease outbreak. These include considerations such as vaccine efficacy; how easily shots are licensed, produced, and shipped; or how many people are vaccinated.

Many experts expect that coronavirus vaccines, like many other vaccinations, would not be 100 percent successful. It is imperative to assure that the vaccinations authorized are as safe as possible so that they can assert a bigger impact on the disease outbreak.

This is too soon to predict whether vaccines against COVID-19 can have lengthy security. To clear this up, extensive study is needed.

The Bottom Line

The current evidence shows that almost all individuals healing from COVID-19 establish an immune reaction that offers latent infection safety for at least a certain amount of time. However, we are still studying how good and how prolonged this security is.

Two dosage regimens are used in most COVID-19 vaccines that are being evaluated now. Individuals behave differently to immunization. History shows that in senior citizens, any vaccination may be less effective because, just like with the annual flu jab, an aging immunity response does not react adequately. But the evidence so far shows that this might not be a concern for any of the COVID-19  vaccines. Lastly, adjuvants can enhance the immunity systems too. When taken alongside vaccines, they can remarkably help you manage the symptoms. Vaccinations usually come out late but the sheer determination of researchers all over the world along with the positive behavior of the general public has helped control the COVID-19 situation.

Understanding The Differences Between Infection and Infectious In COVID-19 – Implications For Prevention And The Emergence Of A New Variant

With the varying terminology related to COVID-19, it’s very easy for patients, their families and yes, sometimes even practitioners to get confused about the precise meaning of some terms. One area that can be especially confusing is the difference between having an “infection” and actually being “infectious.”

First of all, even if a person has been exposed to COVID-19, they may not have been infected, meaning their body has been invaded by the virus and is apt to begin replicating and spreading throughout their body. Even if they have been infected, they may not begin showing symptoms, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, for up to 14 days after exposure.

To further complicate matters, people who may have been exposed and subsequently become infected, may be infectious (capable of spreading the virus to others) even if they are not currently showing any symptoms. Plus, some of those people who are infected and have no symptoms initially, may actually never go on to develop symptoms, but still be infectious!

Close Exposure and Quarantine

The CDC defines exposure as close contact with someone who has COVID-19, which means being within 6 feet of the person who is ill for 15 minutes or more. Close contact is also defined as having had direct physical contact with that person, such as touching them, giving them a hug or sharing eating or drinking utensils. A person is also deemed to have had close contact if the person who was infected sneezed or coughed on them, or otherwise got respiratory droplets on them. Also included as exposed are those people who actually provided care in the home for someone who was ill with COVID-19.

This is why people who have been exposed, or believe they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, should, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, self-quarantine for 14 days to be sure they are not going to develop the illness. Quarantine means someone who may have been exposed to the virus stays away from others. Isolation, on the other hand, means keeping someone who actually has the virus away from others to avoid spreading the illness.

Although the CDC recognizes 14 days as the optimal quarantine period, they also realize that a shorter quarantine, following strict guidelines, may be recommended in some cases to both reduce the burden on the public health system and to make it easier for people to quarantine. Local public health authorities will make these decisions based on conditions in their geographic areas. Public health officials may consider ending the quarantine after ten days if there have been no symptoms or stopping the quarantine after seven days if there has been a negative test on day five or later after exposure.

Emergence of A New Viral Variants and Implications for Vaccines

In addition to confusion around terminology, there now appears to be a new coronavirus strain which is understandably causing quite a bit of concern. The emergence of the new strain, which is known as the B.1.1.7 variant, is not unexpected, as all viruses mutate over time. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first seen in the Ul.K., is among several new variants which have been recognized globally.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a clinical alert to laboratories as well as clinicians warning of the emergence of the B.1.1. 7 variant. The alert underscores the importance of recognizing that false negative COVID test results may result if the part of the virus’s genome assessed by a molecular test has undergone a mutation. These false negative results can potentially occur with any emerging SARS-CoV-2 variant, not just the B.1.1.7 strain.

The FDA also cautions that the new B.1.1.7 variant has been associated with an increased risk of transmission, underscoring the urgency of early detection of the variant to reduce the chances of transmission. Although cases involving the new variant have been isolated in the U.S. the CDC states, that although the new variant does not make people sicker, because it is more easily transmitted, cases are likely to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, the emergence of new variants, such as the B.1.1.7 strain raises concerns over the efficacy of the newly developed vaccines. A study published by the Imperial College of London (but not yet peer reviewed) suggests an alarming 50 percent increase in transmissibility over the more common form of the virus.

A team led by Jesse Bloom, a viral evolutionary biologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington have found evidence that these mutated viruses can dodge recognition by antibodies in those people who have had COVID-19. The researchers are hoping that because vaccines induce such substantial levels of neutralizing antibodies, that the performance of the vaccines will not be substantially affected. Also, the scientists believe that the human T-cell response from the vaccines may not be affected by the variants.