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Digital Virtual Support of Cases and Contacts to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Readiness and Knowledge Sharing for Global Outbreaks (WelTel PHM)

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Epidemiology & Public Health, Equipment & Technology Innovations, Healthcare Delivery & Policy

The global outbreak of COVID-19 is the latest example of a rapidly spreading infectious outbreak with global impact. Infected patients with mild symptoms and asymptomatic contacts need to be isolated, ideally without overwhelming health facilities. WelTel, an integrated virtual care and patient engagement solution, emerged as an innovation initially to support the global HIV pandemic through a Canadian-Kenyan partnership over a decade ago. Co-founded by the lead investigator and registered in British Columbia, WelTel has continued to integrate research into a richly featured virtual care platform that can be used on the frontlines of healthcare delivery.

The study aims to: 1-Deploy and co-optimize WelTel to assist in home monitoring and support of COVID-19 cases and contacts; 2- Determine essential linkages and technical demands of the digital health ecosystem for data security purposes and integration into other electronic health records (EHR) & health information management systems (HIMS); 3-Evaluate communication and other metadata captured by the system for public health quality improvement to better understand and reduce barriers (such as stigma); 4-Use novel computing approaches such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to harness artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to model, predict, and provide insights into future precision public health approaches. Collaborators have necessary expert skills in quantitative and qualitative research methods for rigorous assessment, and come from the countries targeted for the research deployment (Canada, UK, US, Kenya, and Rwanda). A rapid digital landscape analysis will also be done as a part of this research. Virtual care may be an efficient, cost-effective way to provide the necessary public health monitoring and support for patients and contacts of COVID-19 and future emerging communicable pathogens, as well as can inform public health quality improvement and precision care.