When you use insights for immediate action, you have an advantage over the biggest power of a pandemic: you can conquer the fear of the unknown with a new perspective.
“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded.”
These words have come from none other than Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. As he encourages the collection, presentation, and action of real-time data about the pandemic, he makes the significance of data quite clear.
“The right information in the hands of the right people can save lives in a time of crisis.”
Not far away, the European Commission has also launched a data portal for scientists studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus so that access to data sets and tools is accelerated and research efforts get strengthened. How? With data reuse and open science.
Mariya Gabriel, the EU’s commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education, and youth, called this step as “important concrete measure for stronger cooperation in fighting the coronavirus.”
If you can see the pattern data is emerging as, it becomes perhaps, the most powerful weapon we have right now in fighting an invisible enemy. And this is an advantage the likes of which the world has never before seen.
How do you fight what you cannot see?
Right since the hunter-gatherer period of human evolution, communicable diseases have threatened human life. Diseases like influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, and others have always challenged humanity and medical care – right from the Peloponnesian War in around 430 BC in Athens to the SARS and MERS threats we witnessed recently.
But the current Coronavirus is unprecedented in its scale and affliction. The reason is not hard to understand: the asymptomatic nature of this virus allows people who show no signs of being infected to inadvertently infect others. It spreads on to the next victim silently and invisibly that any effort to fight it might appear hopeless.
But there is hope as the World Economic Forum (WEF) experts are reminding us: ‘New technologies for rapid data generation and dissemination are making it possible to gather and analyze data about the virus in near real-time. Never before have we seen this much data generated and shared so quickly, sometimes at the cost of more uncertainty than we would like. But the speed and scale with which this virus spreads and evolves means that never before have so many needed this data so urgently.’
WEF argues that if we look at the beginning of the pandemic in January, and its eventual spread, we would notice that the only public health intervention tool available is containment. And doing this requires knowing where the virus is and how fast it is spreading from person to person. This has been demonstrated well in the success of early programs in places like Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea.
As WEF describes, data can also help authorities identify the most vulnerable communities. So how does data help an average human in this big and uncertain fight?
Don’t just hunt and gather data, bring it to the cave – visualize it!
The supreme value of well-combed data is hard to ignore. WEF has also said that the sheer rate of data generation presents a unique opportunity – be it the genomic data or public repositories for real-time tracking.
That is why Orasi is at the forefront of not just bringing together real-time data in the US, but also presenting it in quickly-digestible visualizations. Our dashboards are tracking every last-minute update on the condition of health services so that people can get usable updates on vital factors like – Emergency Room wait times, spread-impact, the number of cases, availability of facilities, and geographical breakdowns.
This simple service has vast implications, especially when we see that one of the biggest fallout of a pandemic is panic. People are scared, not just for their lives, but also about the way the disease will impact society. Panic creates rumors and a vicious cycle. However, updated information provided in a structured manner keeps rumors at bay while delivering actionable insights to authorities and the general public. This is where data analytics and visualization are proving to be a great tool.
What happens when you visualize data, real-time?
Data visualization tools help confront misinformation and uncertainty. Plus, people have many questions. They want to know how far the disease has spread in their State or County. They also want to know about the most vulnerable demographic and how badly it affects them. Similarly, authorities need updated and segmented data to help understand when and how to direct their resources for optimum effect.
This is the reason Orasi has been dedicatedly working in the area of analytics with vast amounts of data to help the public and the health authorities gain actionable insights. With the rapid spread of COVID-19, we pulled together our team and started working on collecting and analyzing data from trusted sources. Further, we used visualization techniques to create dashboards that can offer insights at a glance without having to spend time making sense of rows upon rows of data. The dashboards offer the following benefits:
- A single reliable source: Our team is constantly updating our database and endeavoring to offer a single source of all information about the pandemic. This helps in keeping rumors at bay and making responsible decisions. People can adhere to social distancing norms. It becomes a better source of update than any irresponsible or casual social media update.
- Eases the burden on healthcare professionals: Hospitals around the globe are overburdened with patients. In the US, too, the health infrastructure is battling to tend to all patients. However, since the virus has spread more in certain regions, the hospitals in those regions are among the worse-affected. We provide an analysis of the average ‘Emergency Room wait time’ so that people can choose a hospital where they can get immediate attention. Our dashboards give information on areas and/or demographics of people that need more attention.
- Better allocation of resources: This can help healthcare providers allocate human and medical support in a planned manner. Resource-use is made smart by following the foot-marks of useful data.
- Identifying hotspots of virus growth: The dashboards are serving one more purpose: identification of clusters and population segments that are the most vulnerable. Our dashboards help authorities identify and understand these clusters/segments and create a plan to keep the spread in check.
In short, Orasi is trying its best to provide meaningful insight about COVID-19 so people can make the best decisions they can about their health and well being.
With these dashboards, citizens can understand the spread, underlying trends, and predict future scenarios. They help in parallel benefits like education, awareness, and positive-reassurance.
As the world gears up to fight COVID-19, data visualization is turning out to be our biggest hope in surviving and winning this unprecedented challenge.
Let us keep faith in a better tomorrow and let data be the torch that leads us to that new path.
“Through our joint efforts, we will better understand, diagnose and eventually overpower the pandemic,” as Gabriel from the EU says it well.