In the not so distant past, we were able to visit restaurants, theaters and bars and congregate without fear of getting ill or maybe even worse, offending someone. Now, even as mandates are loosening, we are faced with choices about wearing masks, injecting new vaccines, staying in our homes or, trying to move on with life as it once was. While technology has had its share of controversial moments during the pandemic, we are also seeing it help keep us connected when we cannot be physically and now, we are watching as it helps open societies more safely. With tech, the devil is in the details so let’s take a look how it may help us move past the pandemic.
Welcome to the land of QR codes. QR codes themselves are nothing new. We have been using them to retrieve coupons, look up transit routes, learn about paintings in museums and many other things. But, in a pandemic world, QR codes have started serving other purposes. They have taken the place of menus so that patrons can avoid sharing menus with the previous diner. They have replaced traditional form of payments to avoid the handling of cash or card. But, perhaps their most impressive but also intrusive use has been to track people as they enter establishments and in some cases, even serving as a “pass” to enter for those who have not been designated as ill. Controversial at best, however also serving a purpose. A look at Australia which has been COVID free (zero cases) for the past 7 weeks, shows that QR codes have been instrumental in contact tracing and then eventually allowing for the opening of the country. Aside from the scanning, there are little to no mandates in place and bars, stadiums and restaurants are back open with a vengeance. Of course, this comes at the price of Big Brother always being alert to your location but let’s be honest, if you are carrying a smart phone, chances are they know where you are anyways.
Zoom Zoom. Video conferencing has been the lifeline for many of us. Whether it is personal communication to friends and loved ones or, it is our daily interactions for work. So how does this help us move past this pandemic and get on with our lives? Well, many of have proven that while it may not be the most enjoyable thing to do, telecommuting and virtual meetings are enough most of the time. Even with vaccines coming out of our ears in the US, the majority of the world will remain very susceptible to the virus and as long as we have open borders and continue to travel ourselves, it is highly unlikely the world will get back to what it was pre-COVID anytime soon. Video conferencing and remote work are going to be the norm for an extended period of time even after we start to go back to a bit more normal life. Many companies will likely implement strict rules against outside visitors to their locations and many companies will find the millions of dollars saved on travel for their sales people during the past 12 months may be more beneficial than the time and money spent on the road. While a screen still cannot replace a physical meeting (not yet anyways), the more hybrid approach is going to be more common versus the past road warrior mentality that drove much of the corporate world.
Telehealth to the rescue. When COVID hit hard, even simple doctor appointments for small ailments like pink eye or a sinus infection were a problem. Never mind the fact that many serious diagnoses were likely missed or delayed due to restrictions. The pandemic basically shut down hospitals and doctors for nearly anything that was not COVID related or life threatening. Telehealth came to the forefront more than ever before and with it, so did innovation. Oxygen monitors that are connected to your phone. Insulin injections that are automated and controlled by an app. Video visits to diagnose small issues such as ear infections or pink eye. Really, this is just the beginning of telehealth possibilities and raises many interesting questions such as, what if hospitals were only for the seriously ill and not for those with minor non-threatening issues? What if we could simplify medicine and reduce costs so that access becomes more widespread? Telehealth is going to evolve and as it does, it will help us to stay away from the hospitals unless we really need to be there and will allow for the medical community to best care for an isolate future viral pandemic cases.