- Nicole Chu and Tanya Li
COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Apps: A New Digital Healthcare World
It is not unusual these days to wake up and immediately go check your phone for the latest COVID-19 related news. Technological devices have become a prominent tool during quarantine, acting as a platform for work and enabling us to maintain a form of “social interaction” virtually. Likewise, digital technology has also been adopted into healthcare policy to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in ways physical measures cannot, and to help facilitate the reopening of local economies by reducing the rate of transmissions.
Countries such as South Korea, China and Taiwan have implemented government-coordinated technology initiatives, including COVID-19 screening, quarantine, and infection tracking using artificial intelligence (AI), GPS and mobile phone apps. These countries have seen beneficial effects using technology in response to the pandemic by being able to quickly contain new outbreaks.
Canada has also begun to implement digital strategies to help monitor cases of COVID-19. Ontario recently launched it’s new COVID-19 “exposure notification” app - COVID Alert - which uses Bluetooth to notify the user if they have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person nearby.
While the use of digital technology to manage COVID-19 has shown beneficial outcomes in some countries so far, there are always risks to consider. The use of technology can emphasize healthcare inequalities. These contact-tracing apps require the user to have a mobile phone and internet, which is expensive and not possible for many during this time. There are also arguments highlighting the infringement on personal privacy and civil liberties, especially since data is accessible to the public. The integration of technology into healthcare policy poses many new questions: are we depending on technology too much? Is sacrificing our personal privacy for the greater good worth it in the end? What will happen to the people left out of this new digital healthcare world?
Check out our podcast Healthcare: Signs and Symptoms after reading this to hear new opinions on this topic.