COVID-19 is today
Pandemics are forever
We need to save lives now while also improving the way we respond to outbreaks in general. The first point is more pressing, but the second has crucial long-term consequences. The long-term challenge — improving our ability to respond to outbreaks — isn’t new. Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic whose speed and severity rivaled those of the 1918 influenza epidemic was a matter not of if but of when.
- Bill Gates, New England J Med, February 28, 2020, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2003762
COVID-19 occupies our minds today, but even when this specific virus passes, other are lurking in the future. Through the ages, we have waged war with microbes. COVID-19 will not be the last - and probably not the worst.
Epidemiology, pharmacology, global health practices, and communications are all advanced tools that have tamed outbreaks that used to devastate entire populations.
The frontlines of the outbreak, however, has always been the healthcare provider. How can Human Fusions help the helper? How do we further improve humankind's response to pandemics?
Need to Protect the Caregiver
Caregivers are on the frontline.
Most of us move away from the afflicted to distance ourselves and reduce transmission.
Caregivers go the other direction. They risk their lives to save others.
The Wuhan doctor that first recognized the coming coronavirus pandemic and many others have lost their lives treating patients afflicted with this virus. The worry amongst healthcare personnel is growing (see this AP story).
If we lose the caregivers ...
"We know the high mortality in older people, but for reasons that we don't understand, front-line health care workers are at great risk for serious illness despite their younger age. There's nothing more destabilizing than health care workers falling ill."
-- Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said during an appearance on CNN's New Day on Monday morning, 3/23/2020.
We need a more powerful way to protect those that care for the sick.
Caregivers do not
Without the brave and selfless caregivers that risk their own health each day to take care of the infected, many more people would die.
How can we protect and care for those that protect and care for us?
Technology for Isolation
But not for caring
Robotic systems can deliver medications and maybe convey video and audio. Robots don't replace human connection.
Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls.
- Science Robotics March 20, 2020: The role of robotics in managing public health and infectious diseases.
Also from the article:
During the 2015 Ebola outbreak, workshops organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation identified three broad areas where robotics can make a difference:
- Clinical care (e.g., telemedicine and decontamination)
- Logistics (e.g., delivery and handling of contaminated waste)
- Reconnaissance (e.g., monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines).
But robotics alone cannot perform simple patient procedures or comfort seriously ill patient. Robots CANNOT REPLACE THE HUMAN RELATIONSHIP. This requires a new approach. An approach that directly connects the caregiver to the patient by embodying or being the robot. This is Human Fusions.
Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar
Fusing a caregiver's skill with technological systems
With non-invasive interfaces, such as a pair of gloves, Human Fusions puts the caregiver in the robotic system, creating an avatar that can:
- Physically interact with the patient - forming an interactive and personal connection between the caregiver and the patient not possible with automated systems.
- Feel and touch the patient
- Perform basic care procedures
- Bring the physician in close visual proximity to the patient
- Create a trusting and comforting relationship with the patient
- With adequate robotics, allow for the caregiver to perform observations, interventions, and care procedures to comfort and improve patient comfort and recovery
The expertise of the caregiver is transferred to the robotic avatar allowing for the ever-important 'human contact' that all people, particularly sick patients, so badly need. This while physically protecting the caregiver from transmission.
The Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar development needs to focus on both the caregiver and the patient's experience to make sure that both are comforted and receive benefit.
As hospital systems reach capacity in one region or country, their human and physical resources are stretched thin. But even pandemics do not hit all regions simultaneously. While one region is suffering, another in a different part of the world has spare healthcare worker capacity.
The Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar will allow crucial human resources to be deployed to regions where it’s most needed. not multiply the work of the individual but ...
... it will enable caregivers from all over the world - retired caregivers, remote caregivers, and others - that could not physically be at the hospital to contribute to the healthcare by entering the Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar from anywhere in the world. Imagine a virtually unlimited workforce available immediately.
Enhance health care by easily bringing in "remote doctors" to be the Avatars. Bring in family to talk with patients, bring in human connection in addition to healthcare. Virtual visitation.
Healing comes from more than medical care. The love and support of family and friends is important, but is sacrificed for their protection when in isolation.
patients hit the hardest by the coronavirus, struggling to breathe and on ventilators, with no visitors allowed because of strict protocols to prevent spreading the virus.
“So often a patient will be on their deathbed, dying alone, and it’s been incredibly painful to see the suffering of family members who I call from the ICU, hearing the tears, crying with them on the phone.”
-- Dr. Kamini Doobay, (AP Story).
We can change this. A family could engage in the Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar to visit, touch, and hold their loved ones to help recovery, or in unfortunate cases, be present at end of life.
Join the effort
Infectious disease will remain a threat throughout the 21st century and beyond.
- Bloom, David E, and Daniel Cadarette. “Infectious Disease Threats in the Twenty-First Century: Strengthening the Global Response.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 10 549. 28 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2019.00549
The Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar will be a new option in the pantheon of tools to battle infectious diseases from the recurring annual threats to the devastating pandemic. Join us in this Human Fusions Healthcare Avatar Initiative.