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18 Mar 2020

The Role of Data Integration during Pandemics such as the Coronavirus Outbreak

The Role of Data Integration during Pandemics such as the Coronavirus Outbreak

Just when we feel smug about having found cures to innumerable diseases, along comes a new kind of a disease, such as the Coronavirus, that humbles us. As dire as the situation may be, in terms of the rapid spread of the disease across the world, rising death tolls, closed businesses, and economic havoc, can technologies play a role in abating the disease, aiding the businesses, and improving the economy? Technologies like data integration most certainly can.

By bringing together data from disparate sources and making them available in real time to physicians, business owners, government officials, and the public at large, data integration can aid in the rapid delivery of holistic information through the applications used by these data consumers. Thus, it enables doctors to make quick decisions about where to focus the care, business owners to alter production schedules to meet the demand, government agencies to contain the epidemic, and public to be informed about prevention.


The Ripple Effect of Losses – People, Businesses, and Countries

Just like a ripple that begins with a single drop and sets off a series of concentric circles of waves, one can represent the losses that mount from an outbreak as a ripple effect. At the core of it is people. We are at the epicenter, the beginning and the most important circle. Then comes businesses, the next concentric circle – many of them can suffer due to shutdowns, resulting in lost production and hence profits. The outermost circle is the countries – this one represents the governments, agencies, and various other factors such as trade and the stock market.

Outbreaks start with people, the initial drop. Despite advances in the field of medicine, it is horrible to see thousands of people die within a matter of weeks after contracting the virus, with no hope for a cure. Families are destroyed when one or both parents die leaving orphaned children, or parents cope with the premature death of their children, not to mention the loss of income and any plans for higher education or marriage. These losses were unimaginable just a few months ago.

When thousands of people die, or hundreds of thousands of them become sick or are quarantined, businesses suffer; after all, businesses are run by people. Production suffers, taking a toll on profits. Employees do not get paid worsening their loss of income to battle health issues in the family. In the worst case, small businesses can shutter if the owner dies.

If products are not made, then there is nothing to trade within or across countries. Economies get stifled. Stock markets plunge – the Dow Jones just witnessed the worst intraday decline of 10%, sending panic among the financial community, and resulting in the loss of wealth. Hospitals are overrun if the disaster exceeds the care capacity or the caregivers themselves become victims of the disease and die or are unable to function.

As you can see, the losses can spiral into a global behemoth of a pandemic. The inception of such disasters can rarely be controlled, but can such epidemic be contained? If so, by whom and when?


How Data Integration Can Help

By integrating data across multiple systems and delivering holistic information in real time to decision makers, modern data integration technologies like data virtualization can greatly assist in curing diseases, stemming their spread, and eventually quelling the resulting panic.

Hospitals can use data virtualization to deliver integrated, 360-degree patient health views directly to emergency room physicians to determine the optimal treatment protocol at the point of admission or triage. Such views can contain information about patients’ recent hospital visits, test results, and medications they can and cannot take. Healthcare agencies can use data virtualization to assemble in real time the information coming from hospitals about the number of Coronavirus diagnoses, display the data on visual concentration maps within BI tools, to determine logistics to most effectively contain the spread of the disease. Research institutions can use data virtualization to deliver disease details to their researchers straight from hospitals as patients are being diagnosed, to accelerate the discovery of a vaccine. Businesses can use data virtualization to reroute logistics across plants and locations. Finally, governments can use the information to reassure the public about the steps its agencies are taking to protect the citizens.

Data virtualization accomplishes this rapid delivery of information by quickly moving views of the source data without replicating it.


Bringing an Order to this World during Uncertain Times

The containment of Coronavirus is nowhere near, let alone a cure. Hundreds of thousands of people are infected at this point, and thousands keep dying every week. Just as the outbreak started with people, the drop that initiated the ripple, and spread out to the businesses and economies, the remedy has to start with the people as well. Curing the afflicted people first will eventually open up businesses, borders, and economies.

Data virtualization can certainly help global efforts by improving the efficacy of response teams so they can gain an upper hand in their fight against this dreadful disease.

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