By Ran Poliakine, CEO and Co-Founder of Nanox
Until a few months ago, news coming out of the medical world tended to boast of humankind’s enormous technological leaps, many of which were made possible by Artificial Intelligence. Machines began to assist doctors in performing surgeries and prosthetics became more effective than ever. The threats facing humanity, some of industry’s leading voices warned, stemmed not from nature as they had in the past, but from machines—the very machines built to help humans curb climate change and cure disease.
That was before the novel coronavirus struck, devastating China and spreading outward to every corner of the earth. What began as yet another novel regional disease quickly became a global pandemic, as millions rushed to stock up on food, masks, and hand sanitizer. COVID-19 proved there is too big a gap between the cutting-edge, top-of-the-line medical technology at the forefront of science and much of the equipment that is actually available for doctors and hospitals globally.
The world wasn’t prepared for coronavirus and is lacking a sufficient amount of ventilators. This has proven to be a major problem considering ventilators are currently the main supportive treatment of COVID-19 when patients are in the critical stage and mortality rate is 61.5 percent, according to a Lancet medical journal study.
The supply shortage doesn’t end there: All over the world, countries are lacking protective masks for the general public and health professionals alike. As documented by CBS News, nurses across America, and likely around the world, are forced to reuse masks due to the shortage. Other essential protective gear, the nasal swabs needed to test for the disease, hospital beds, and understaffed medical teams now stand as impediments to hospitals everywhere.
There is debate over whether the medical community could have foreseen the coronavirus. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Without assigning blame, we all should have been better prepared for the worst. From X-ray machines to CT scanners to protective gear, hospitals and doctor’s offices deserve an upgrade. The most outdated equipment, though, tends not to be the medical devices used for hands-on care, but administrative equipment.
As of 2018, a large number of doctors were still using fax machines, technology that largely became extinct over the last eight years in all other industries, to communicate. This fact may seem trivial at first glance, but communication matters. According to the World Health Organization, up to 50 percent of all medical errors in primary care are administrative errors.
There are other less obvious risks of hospitals continuing to use outdated medical equipment too. Take, for example, the 2020 IoT Threat Report from Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 threat security team, which found that as many as 83 percent of Internet-connected medical imaging devices—from mammography machines to MRI machines—are vulnerable to hacks that could disrupt care.
As coronavirus rages on, the medical community must focus first and foremost on allocating resources as efficiently as possible and providing care to those who need it as researchers race toward a vaccine. We are currently in crisis mode. Now is the time to do everything in our power to stand with the medical community. They are heroes, deserving of our full support and admiration.
We will weather the storm, and when it’s over, we must reexamine the medical equipment in hospitals and clinics worldwide. With such rapid advancements made in medical technology, we must make them available to care providers everywhere. It is the only way to prepare for the next global pandemic.
The CEO and Co-Founder of medical imaging company Nanox, Ran Poliakine is a serial entrepreneur focusing on global life-changing technologies and inventions across multiple categories. He was previously the Founder and CEO of Powermat Technologies.