Tag Archives: COVID-19 policyholder impact

COVID-19 Spurs Jobs
For Robots, Drones,
Other Technologies


COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health system in coming weeks, creating a need for remote services.

Robots, drones, and other technologies are being deployed in the fight against COVID-19, introducing new opportunities, challenges, and risks.

From “tele-health” solutions that facilitate care from a distance to robots that disinfect facilities to  drones that help manage crowds, the pandemic is spurring novel uses of existing technologies and could lead to new ones as nations, companies, and communities try to be better prepared for the next outbreak.

Telemedicine

Use of video conferencing and other forms of remote health-care delivery was developed to serve communities with few medical facilities. Today’s extreme circumstances, however, highlight its broader value.

Medicare this week said it will expand coverage for telemedicine nationwide to help seniors with health problems stay home and avoid coronavirus exposure. The virus threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health system in coming weeks, creating a need for remote services.

However, a patchwork of state-by-state regulations is slowing the advance of telemedicine.

“Oregon just rejected us because we didn’t have a facility there, and they told us to get one before we reapplied,” said James Wantuck, chief medical officer at San Francisco-based telemedicine firm PlushCare. “North Carolina, we found out, is really targeting retired doctors who previously had a license in that state, while other states like Mississippi, Colorado and Florida are making it very easy for our doctors to get licensed there.”

Over the past week, increased demand has slammed facilities that are used to serving only a few patients a day and now face backlogs.

“You can get the technology to support these astounding volumes,” said Roy Schoenberg, CEO of Boston-based telemedicine company Amwell. “But you’re very quickly getting to a point where the supply of medical services isn’t there. We need to have enough clinicians to allow us to handle that incoming volume.”

Robots

At the Wuchang field hospital in Wuhan, China – epicenter of the first coronavirus outbreak – a ward was staffed with 5G-enabled robots to help contain the contagion and alleviate the strain on human personnel.

Doctors in the United States used robot-assisted telemedicine to treat the first person in the country admitted to hospital with 2019-nCoV. In a two-bed isolated area at Providence Regional Medical Center in Washington – set up five years ago to deal with Ebola but never used – a robot equipped with a camera, microphone, and stethoscope enabled the patient consult with clinicians without direct contact.

Robots also are being used for disinfection.  Xenex robots – manufactured in San Antonio, Texas – use pulsed xenon ultraviolet-C (UVC) light to destroy pathogens. The company says its devices are being used to clean hospital rooms where there have been suspected cases of the new coronavirus. The robot can clean a room in as little as five minutes.

Los Angeles-based Dimer UVC Innovations has developed a germ-killing robot to sanitize airplanes. The robot – called GermFalcon – is being used at the Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Drones

In Spain, police are using drones to warn people to stay at home. Spain has declared a state of emergency and ordered citizens to stay indoors, apart from necessary trips, after reporting a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. BBC footage shows deserted Madrid streets policed by drones. The drones are controlled by humans who relay warnings through them via radio.

Similarly, in China drones were deployed to observe crowds and help manage traffic. People not wearing masks in public could be identified, and the drones were able to broadcast information to larger areas than regular loudspeakers. They also used thermal imaging to identify people with elevated body temperatures and were used to spray disinfectant in public areas.

Longer-term implications

Expanded use of these technologies against COVID-19 is a logical continuation of their evolution, but such advances don’t occur in a vacuum. Concerns about machines replacing human workers – especially if this outbreak ushers in a new era of “social distancing” – and about normalizing surveillance and use of drones for crowd control almost certainly will be raised.

If telemedicine gains greater traction, will cost efficiency conflict with efficacy of care?

Will internet-enabled technologies create more channels for cybercriminals to exploit?

Will greater social acceptance of technological solutions result in decreased attention to low-cost approaches to containment, like hand washing and environmental cleanliness?

Policymakers, corporate decision makers, and communities will need to address these and many other questions after this virus has been suppressed.

COVID-19 Meets Cyberrisk

As COVID-19 spreads, we’ve been hearing more about the importance of hygiene and maintaining “social distance.”

Last night I found out the cyberrisk conference I was scheduled to attend this morning had been changed to a “virtual” meeting. With so many events being canceled or postponed out of an abundance of caution over the spreading COVID-19 virus, it was nice to know the show would go on safely.

I’d already been working from home (thank you, Triple-I!) to avoid exposure during my train commute and potentially becoming a “vector” to family, friends, and co-workers. As I waited for the event to begin, I scrolled through my news feed and spotted several stories about risks related to increased remote work.

Cyberrisk featured prominently in these articles. Unprotected devices, they warned, can lead to data losses, privacy breaches, and ransomware attacks.

One article alluded to campaigns designed specifically to tap into concerns around COVID-19.

“We are already seeing targeted phishing campaigns globally,” said New Zealand Health IT chief executive Scott Arrol. “The cyber virus taking advantage of the biological virus.”

Arrol said hackers seeking to exploit fears of Covid-19 are sending fake ads or links with online viruses.

The message “might look like it has come from the World Health Organization, inviting you to register for more information,” he said. “You click on that link, you’ll be taken to fill out a form and then suddenly…you’re giving away personal information you shouldn’t.”

Technology can help us maintain social distance, but the devices we rely on need to be managed and protected, lest they make us even more vulnerable.

Insurance broker Aon has issued an advisory cautioning employers to take steps to ensure that work-from-home employees can connect to secure remote networks, a Claims Journal article says.

“Any time you’re taking about employees who are not used to working from home, who may not have the correct cybersecurity posture, a virtual private network (VPN) is critically important and having two-factor authentication is critically important,” Aon Senior Vice President Stephanie Snyder said.

A VPN connects remote users or regional offices to a company’s private internal network. Two-factor authentication adds a layer of security beyond a password to make sure a user is authorized to access the system.

Snyder added that telecommuters may be tempted to work from their laptops at a coffee shop – potentially exposing their computers to intrusion. She said employers need to have strict security protocols in place to avoid such exposures.

So, I wasn’t surprised when one of the first speakers at the event I was “attending” mentioned viral epidemics like COVID-19 as something underwriters just a few years ago would not have considered a factor in assessing cyber risk but now should.

As I’ve written before, increasingly interconnected risks require a holistic approach to risk management – one that takes into account preparation, mitigation, and built-in resilience. As COVID-19 has spread beyond its origins in Asia, we’ve been hearing more about the importance of hygiene and of maintaining “social distance.”

Technology can help us maintain social distance, but the devices we rely on need to be managed and protected, lest they make us even more vulnerable.