Three ways digital tools are helping fight Zika

August 9, 2016

For healthcare organizations, now is the time to help address Zika fears by utilizing digital tools.

Zika is currently one of the most talked about diseases worldwide, and concerns around its potential impact to human health seem to grow every day. As the world focuses its attention on the Brazil summer games, it’s no surprise that apprehension continues to rise, especially as the country is hosting more than 16,000 athletes and 600,000 visitors from around the world.

MycekAs pharma companies race to push vaccines to the market, there are still few tools available to protect patients from the virus. However, digital tools are emerging as a front-runner in helping people gather information about the potential threats of the virus, its geographic prominence/spread, symptoms/signs and other factors that could place them in a high risk category.

Digital services and mobile tools help educate the public about pandemics, viruses and related widespread contactable diseases. This information sharing can help arm the public with valuable and timely insights that could potentially help them lower their risks.

For example, there are a range of mHealth tools and digital programs already underway that play a critical key role in informing the public about Zika, including:

1. Mobile apps that track the virus. Public health officials, especially those in prone areas like Brazil, have utilized an app called “Sem Dengue,” or “Without Dengue,” allowing them to track the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the Zika virus. These technologies use public collaboration to create a visual map monitoring mosquitos in the city. By having access to this data and information, health officials can improve tracking the spread of the virus before it’s too late.

2. Mobile apps that train healthcare workers. To help spread awareness of the virus, the World Health Organization has created a WHO Zika App that helps train healthcare workers. The app outlines information on the disease, microcephaly and other suspected complications, and allows workers to download technical guidance and resources, follow ongoing research and development, stay updated about the latest news and follow the international response to Zika.

Brazil’s Ministry of Health has also launched extensive online courses for doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other primary care professionals, exploring the epidemiology, health promotion and prevention, clinical presentation and approach to Zika-infected patients. One module is entirely dedicated to the care of pregnant women with suspected or confirmed Zika virus infection and newborns with microcephaly.

3. User-friendly websites that educating the public.  On the education front, health organizations such as the CDC and the American Medical Association have created websites and microsites with a variety of user-friendly information, from an FAQ on pregnancy and Zika to infographics highlighting the current state of understanding and precautions.

As the urgency and severity of the outbreak continues to grow, information sharing, mobile and digital solutions will play an even bigger role in fighting the spread of Zika. While this alone won’t be a cure for the illness, utilizing mobile apps, training healthcare workers and educating the public with real-time information via digital tools will certainly help halt the progress of fast-spreading diseases now and in the future.

For digitally savvy pharma companies, now is the time to help by supporting, sharing and partnering with existing content providers in this critical public health education initiative.

Chris Mycek is chief customer officer, Cadient, a Cognizant Company.