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 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 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.