The Role of Health Tech in Stopping the Spread of Epidemics

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A Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member ties a face maskWest Africa has sadly witnessed one of the worst Ebola outbreaks in our collective memory. The virus is certainly one of the deadliest seen, as up to 90% of those infected are likely to lose their lives once sick. Could health tech play a vital role in stopping the spread of epidemics like the Ebola virus? Health informatics continues to grow in importance to modern care solutions; it can certainly be integral to handling these outbreaks.

Control Interventions are Critical

Research clearly demonstrates that rapid and even vehement execution of control interventions are absolutely critical in order to contain and control outbreaks and limit damage.

This approach is applicable when talking about not just the current Ebola epidemic, but any disease or plague that could quickly take hold if suitable control measures were not deployed and enforced without delay.

Protective Gear to Achieve Hygiene Compliance

Protective gear is vital when dealing with Ebola patients –following hygiene compliance rules can stop the spread of disease.

This where health technology can start to play an influential role in stopping the spread of disease. One example: a smart band has been developed to assist in the monitoring and management of healthcare workers hand hygiene. A high tech detection system like this is just one of the ways to enforce vital hygiene compliance through specially designed protective gear.

Detecting Body Temperature

Temperature sensing is at the frontline of Ebola detection; there are currently a number of smart devices available that can be used to detect body temperature and potentially highlight anyone who could be infected.

A thermal camera integrated into a smartphone cover is one such way to make visible what the naked eye is unable to see on its own. It works by expanding the portion of the spectrum that we use to perceive images, so that we can actually see heat as it were, by using the accompanying smartphone app.

There are several different versions of smartphone thermal imaging apps available and they all have the ability to play a leading role in helping to identify potential Ebola victims and reduce the risk of an epidemic.


The use of temperature monitoring through wearables with the technology incorporated into them is another good example of the positive role of health tech.

Health workers can use these wearables to provide constant monitoring of their temperature and also limit the levels of skin contact as well, so they serve a dual purpose in the constant battle to contain and control the spread of diseases like Ebola.

When you see the positive benefits, you can understand why many industry analysts think that health tech has a positive role to play in preventing the spread of epidemics.

If you are interested in furthering your career in health informatics, consider enrolling in the online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree program with the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Image via Flickr by CDC Global