Rupal Thanawala

Rupal Thanawala

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have come to the realization that we take so many things for granted and rely on so many essential workers to keep going daily life. We often miss out on an opportunity to thank those who put their lives at risk to protect us and provide us comfort. 

Next is health care heroes who are true COVID-19 warriors. But are we recognizing all of them? Hands down, the most obvious ones are doctors, nurses, pharmacists and respiratory therapists. However, they all work in tight coordination with an entire team and a whole bunch of technology that plays a crucial role in providing critical medical care to us. In health care set up, each individual has a highly specialized role and they are indispensable. Thus, my unsung health care heroes list also includes 911 dispatchers, EMT staff, ambulance drivers, case managers, translators, physical therapists, lab technicians, engineers, counselors, cooks, janitors, and the list goes on. To put it in the perspective, IU Health system has 30,000 full time equivalent employees and 2,800 medical doctors.

In the COVID-19 combat, technology has been a key contributor at every step — testing, tracking and treatment. Well, I was one of those geeky health care heroes in the mid-‘90s. Probably one of the most fulfilling and rewarding jobs in my entire career was when I practiced biomedical engineering. I have performed tasks of working in a factory to manufacture medical devices to working in hospitals to calibrate, test, maintain and repair medical instruments. In both the setups I could see first-hand how medical instruments assisted health care workers in the diagnosis and treatment of the patients. Often, they were lifesavers. 

DATA — How do you know if we are flattening the curve or not, and what is the impact of COVID in different demographics, races and regions? What are the historical trends and how can be best predict future state? Analytics and Artificial intelligence are our storytellers and crystal balls. At every point of patient care, vitals such as measuring temperature, oxygen concentration level, heart rate and blood pressure are captured using various electronic equipment. Admitted and ICU patients are hooked to multi-channel monitors to get most of the vitals using a single unit. Google and Apple have developed an app using "contact tracing technology" to alert users if they have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

DIAGNOSIS — All of the COVID-19 and lab testing is done with special units to run diagnostics automatically with accuracy. Since many of the COVID-19 patients have other health complications a variety of diagnostic equipment such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or echocardiogram and so on also could be used. These sets of electronic devices are connected with nursing stations and doctors can review the reports remotely to make prompt decisions for care. 

TREATMENT — One of the most commonly heard and lifesaving medical devices during the COVID-19 pandemic is the ventilator. This unit may take over the function of breathing completely or may assist and support as needed for breathing. In addition to a ventilator, an infusion pump to deliver an accurate dose of medicine is a must. In the case of a surgical procedure, our operation theaters are equipped with traditional cautery machines (electronic knives) to laser-guided and robotic surgical tools, artificial heart-lung machines, blood gas analyzers, and all the above-mentioned diagnostic and monitoring devices. 

In closing, let us be thankful to the entire team of health care heroes who collectively work to keep us safe and healthy. 

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