TCS helps build digital tool for US COVID-19 patients in weeks
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Digital healthcare system ‘HomeBound’ was built in a mere 12 weeks amidst a devastating first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘HomeBound’ allows online consultation and monitoring of patients’ symptoms and vitals on a regular basis.
Medical and technology experts from India, the US, and Europe, came together to deliver the much-needed product, in speedy fashion.
The digital healthcare system was innovated at scale with an aim to repurpose it to manage other infectious diseases.
How it started
In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak had already snowballed into a pandemic.
The city of San Diego in the US faced a grim situation of overwhelmed hospitals, overrun clinics, and was witnessing an overall community in crisis. Against the backdrop of medical centers struggling to cope with the heavy influx of patients, a group of clinicians, scientists, and healthcare leaders joined hands to tackle the catastrophe that was unfolding.
University of California, San Diego, (UCSD), which was a part of this group, expressed the need to find a way to keep patients out of the hospital while giving them quality care, establishing the foundation of ‘HomeBound’. Semiconductor giant Qualcomm, also part of the group, roped in TCS’ Research and Innovation Incubation team, given their history of working closely with them on several innovative projects. Incubation Rapid Labs is a TCS innovation team that speedily builds game-changing solutions using emerging technologies.
Safe, at home
‘HomeBound’ is designed to facilitate online consultation with doctors, care providers, and volunteers for patients to manage the disease at home, while following social distancing guidelines.
The system consists of a patient-friendly iPhone and Android application where they can upload their latest symptoms and vitals to help caregivers monitor their progress and recovery.
The digital system enables anonymous contact tracing and includes a dashboard for doctors to remotely monitor patients and provide advice. Furthermore, anonymized patient information may be used for research purposes, with artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) models helping uncover new patterns, co-relations, and assisting in patient management. The system is designed with a configurable backend where new knowledge can be added by doctors without programming.
Innovating at scale
‘HomeBound’ is developed to be open source with an aim to repurpose it to manage other infectious diseases as well. Integration with pandemic-related apps such as India’s Aarogya Setu could amplify the system’s impact.
HomeBound can be used by millions of patients globally, allowing them to connect with the best physicians, medical practitioners, and experts anywhere in the world. Moreover, patients go through the treatment process staying indoors, within their homes, keeping themselves and their community safe.
A global collaboration
Within a week of being onboarded, Rapid Labs used a borderless innovation model to brainstorm ideas on how to develop the system, with experts from across the world brought together by UCSD’s Earth 2.0 initiative.
Earth 2.0 is a network and open space for citizens to learn, share, collaborate, and solve major social-related issues. For HomeBound too, infectious diseases experts from the US and Europe, technology and design experts from India and the US, cloud-based infrastructure from technology partners such as Microsoft and business communication platform Slack, and hospitals across the US came together to support the initiative.
Incubation Rapid Labs used collaborative platforms to exchange ideas develop and review code base, enabling distributed teams to work at lightning pace. The outcome was a complex and rich system developed and tested with doctors and pilot users in under three months.
Appreciating TCS’ and India’s contribution, Eliah Aronoff-Spencer, Assistant Professor of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, UCSD, said, “We needed to keep people out of the hospital. Qualcomm knew of a team of extraordinary programmers in India who might have been able to help. We later learned this was TCS’ preeminent software development group, who agreed on-the-spot to support development. That was the moment ‘HomeBound’ was born … The story is that India built an app for Americans, and it can help all of us... maybe this points to a new way of working together on global problems.”
TCS Incubation’s several years of proved experience in creating exponential value and impact helped it deliver a twofold faster impact than average industry norms.
Acknowledging TCS’ expertise in driving the solution, Nikhil Jain, VP Technology, Qualcomm, said, “This was a difficult project, and we needed some very good expertise to get it done. I had known TCS as part of my work at Qualcomm and had known the Research and Innovation Incubation group for many years. I admired what they did and approached them. We were then introduced to the Incubation Rapid Lab in India.” Jain said the team in India took the initial concept and converted it into a fully working system within three months, adding, “We are very grateful for (TCS) partnering with us on Earth 2.0. We will continue to partner. This is the start of a long journey.”