There aren’t many good things to come out of the coronavirus outbreak but the pandemic might (inadvertently) change the way we view tech forever.
From remote working to people seeing their GP online, the world is turning to technology to try and slow down the number of new cases of the virus.
There have already been dire warnings of an economic meltdown in the travel, sporting and hospitality sectors but could technology mitigate the impact and reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the process?
Tobias Alpsten is the CEO at iPLATO Healthcare and the creator of myGP app and has seen a big spike in requests from patients wanting to see the doctor via a video link.
“Some clinicians use our tech to work from home,” he said. “It’s a huge push now but it’s too early to say that it has structurally changed the way that healthcare works.
“Just like the rest of the health service, we’re challenged to meet demand. There has never been a better time for patients and healthcare professionals to NOT visit the practice so remote consultation on myGP is, not unexpectedly, flying.
“Outbound messaging to guide patients has doubled compared to a ‘normal’ month to over 1/2 million per day and the Covid-19 signpost that sits within the myGP appointment booking process has 80,000 views per day.
“But with thousands of practices on the platform we also see the other end of the spectrum. We see some practices shutting down digital tools to go back to their old ways of working (phone during open hours to access services) in a desperate attempt to regain control of the situation. This usually results in a jammed switchboard and further confusion among patients.”
Marc Schmid is the founder of Lancashire-based Redmoor Health, which specialises in applying tech digital solutions on the frontline of health and social care, and believes the coronavirus has changed primary healthcare forever.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said. “It’s changing the way organisations work, not just in the health sector but also in business. Do people need to have that face-to-face meeting? We’re using Microsoft Team a lot. I’ve said to our team that we don’t need to be sitting in the same room. A lot of business can be done remotely.
“The current situation has highlighted a lot of gaps around some people’s access to technology, especially the elderly. If you haven’t got access to iPads how to you stop people getting socially isolated?”
Even before the coronavirus outbreak Schmid championed the case for more GP video consultations to cope with rising demand.
He said: “There’s been a huge push in the use of video from GP practices – not just to prevent patients having to mix but also to protect the staff as some people with obvious symptoms still find it acceptable to ignore advice and turn up at GP practices, putting the health of staff and patients at risk. It is a terrible situation but I suspect primary care and how it is delivered will have changed forever.
“We’re supporting practices on the frontline to use technologies they have at their disposal. We’re not visiting GPs because they don’t want staff being put at undue risk. We have a number of practices in the Midlands and the North West who are doing everything online. They’re keeping as many people out of the surgeries as possible.
“The last thing we want is people going into practices and passing the virus onto GPs and reception staff.
“We’re connecting them with other GPs because they can learn off each other. This week we’re also going to do some digital drop-in sessions for GP practices and answering any questions that they may have.”
Coronavirus has seen a huge increase in the number of people remote-working.
Companies – big and small – have been encouraging staff to work from home where possible.
Twitter told its employees to work from home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and a lot of other smaller companies have been buying extra laptops and uploading a remote-access VPN connection to allow staff to connect to a private network from a remote location.
Cloud hosting firm UKFast offers a remote desktop service called FASTdesk that gives its customers access to their entire office desktop. It uses enterprise-grade technology from Citrix and is hosted on the cloud to enable employees to access their remote desktop in an instant.
Damian Hanson is a co-founder of Lancashire-based cloud-based phone system CircleLoop that is used by more than 4,000 UK businesses. It’s completely application-based, which means that businesses can access their business phone numbers in the cloud-based system and use them on their existing devices.
Hanson told BusinessCloud: “Due to coronavirus businesses are now implementing remote-working policies and CircleLoop just works anywhere on any device. Sign-ups for CircleLoop in the past week are 100 per cent higher than normal.”
Sandbach-based Three Little Birds PR are specialists in travel, tourism and leisure, all sectors that have been badly hit by coronavirus.
MD and founder Sheila Manzano said their use of Office 365 had made a big difference. She said: “As a small operation we are set up this way already. Perhaps similar sized companies to us that aren’t using such platforms will implement them going forward. My team can remote work instantly without disruption to our services… although as a tourism PR agency we are naturally in a challenging period.”
Award-winning entrepreneur Helen Tonks is the co-founder of Cheshire-based Hydraulics Online and said human contact wasn’t a prerequisite of running a successful business.
“I have said for a while that COVID-19 will change the way we behave and interact forever,” she said. “As it is, we already give remote, bespoke service to customers worldwide. We probably meet less than 2 per cent of our customers. But if the knowledge and service is there relationships can still flourish.”
Many analysts are predicting that the coronavirus will be the catalyst for growth in the FinTech sector as people avoid high street banks.
Fast-growing Manchester-based instant messaging platform Nivo is designed to prevent people from ever having to phone service providers such as banks, lenders, insurance firms, utilities, telecoms and healthcare providers.
Polly Taylor-Pullen heads up business development at Nivo, tech start-up of the year and said: “Our clients are telling us that they are able to carry on business as usual because of Nivo.
“In fact, some (mainly commercial SME lenders) are saying they are receiving more digital applications through Nivo than ever before as people are turning to online journeys to apply for loans.”