The Essential Role of Technology in the Public Health Battle against COVID-19

Michael Y. Uohara*, James N. Weinstein, David C. Rhew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Technology has played an important role in responding to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. The virus's blend of lethality and transmissibility have challenged officials and exposed critical limitations of the traditional public health apparatus. However, throughout this pandemic, technology has answered the call for a new form of public health that illustrates opportunities for enhanced agility, scale, and responsiveness. The authors share the Microsoft perspective and illustrate how technology has helped transform the public health landscape with new and refined capabilities - the efficacy and impact of which will be determined by history. Technologies like chatbot and virtualized patient care offer a mechanism to triage and distribute care at scale. Artificial intelligence and high-performance computing have accelerated research into understanding the virus and developing targeted therapeutics to treat infection and prevent transmission. New mobile contact tracing protocols that preserve patient privacy and civil liberties were developed in response to public concerns, creating new opportunities for privacy-sensitive technologies that aid efforts to prevent and control outbreaks. While much progress is still needed, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted technology's importance to public health security and pandemic preparedness. Future multi-stakeholder collaborations, including those with technology organizations, are needed to facilitate progress in overcoming the current pandemic, setting the stage for improved pandemic preparedness in the future. As lessons are assessed from the current pandemic, public officials should consider technology's role and continue to seek opportunities to supplement and improve on traditional approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-367
Number of pages7
JournalPopulation Health Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • infectious disease
  • population health
  • public health
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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