Advanced Digital Health Technologies for COVID-19 and Future Emergencies

Telemed J E Health. 2020 Oct;26(10):1226-1233. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2020.0140. Epub 2020 May 26.


Background:Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to a national health care emergency in the United States and exposed resource shortages, particularly of health care providers trained to provide critical or intensive care. This article describes how digital health technologies are being or could be used for COVID-19 mitigation. It then proposes the National Emergency Tele-Critical Care Network (NETCCN), which would combine digital health technologies to address this and future crises.Methods:Subject matter experts from the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center examined the peer-reviewed literature and science/technology news to see what digital health technologies have already been or could be implemented to (1) support patients while limiting COVID-19 transmission, (2) increase health care providers' capability and capacity, and (3) predict/prevent future outbreaks.Results:Major technologies identified included telemedicine and mobile care (for COVID-19 as well as routine care), tiered telementoring, telecritical care, robotics, and artificial intelligence for monitoring. Several of these could be assimilated to form an interoperable scalable NETCCN. NETCCN would assist health care providers, wherever they are located, by obtaining real-time patient and supplies data and disseminating critical care expertise. NETCCN capabilities should be maintained between disasters and regularly tested to ensure continual readiness.Conclusions:COVID-19 has demonstrated the impact of a large-scale health emergency on the existing infrastructures. Short term, an approach to meeting this challenge is to adopt existing digital health technologies. Long term, developing a NETCCN may ensure that the necessary ecosystem is available to respond to future emergencies.

Keywords: coronavirus; critical care; digital health; emergencies; natural disasters; pandemics; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Technology / trends*
  • COVID-19
  • Civil Defense / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Critical Care / organization & administration*
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation*
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • United States