Despite the warnings of epidemiologists, the coronavirus pandemic has taken the entire planet by surprise. Societies have been divided into doctors and patients, and often even doctors have ended up in hospital. In this race against the clock for life, the authorities have had to deal with an unprecedented situation and an unknown virus. However, the work of those directly involved in the fight against the novel coronavirus would have been much more difficult without the support of a series of eHealth platforms and solutions developed for the Republic of Moldova, a process that has highlighted the importance of digital solutions, supported by the European Union through its EU4Digital initiative across the Eastern Partnership.
Interactive map of COVID-19 cases
With the pandemic, the importance of integrated data platforms quickly became apparent. As the number of COVID-19 infections increased, the Moldovan authorities, together with national and external partners, set out to create a real-time data platform to assess how the pandemic was evolving both in the country and abroad.
The active map of COVID-19 cases ensures transparency and accessibility of information in real time. Moreover, not only does the map show the geographical distribution of COVID-19 cases by locality, but the platform also has data on active cases by age, sex and locality, as well as on deaths.
Another tool that helps doctors and relevant authorities to investigate outbreaks of communicable diseases through the collection of field data during public health emergencies is the GoData platform. The tool includes features for case investigation, laboratory data, contact tracing, transmission chain viewing, including secure data exchange. It is designed for flexibility in the field, to adapt to the wide range of outbreak scenarios.
GoData is the initiative of a group of public health partners and is managed by the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The tool has been used since 2019 in response to the Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. WHO is now working with Member States and partners to make GoData also available for the response to COVID-19. The Republic of Moldova has implemented this tool for investigating COVID-19 cases and for tracking contacts at the local level.
Reporting COVID-19 data to National Agency for Public Health (NAPH) through the national surveillance system
Another tool that has facilitated the work of healthcare staff is the possibility of reporting COVID-19 data to the National Agency for Public Health through a national surveillance system. NAPH specialists claim this system ensures the detection, notification, reporting and investigation of infections with the novel coronavirus, and contributes to prevention and control measures.
All these processes are carried out jointly with primary, hospital and laboratory care. Accordingly, everyone has an identification code, and subsequently, depending on the laboratory result (positive or negative), it is submitted to the database of people confirmed with SARS-CoV-2.
The epidemiologist adds that contacts are monitored in parallel – a process of identifying, evaluating and managing people who have been exposed to a person confirmed with SARSCoV- 2 to prevent further transmission.
Electronic COVID-19 database
Officials from the NAPH say the institution has comprehensive disaggregated databases for each person confirmed with COVID-19. This is possible due to the complex investigation of each case.
The epidemiologist specifies that the real purpose of such databases is action. Following their consultation, daily and weekly reports are produced. That information also serves as basis for calculating the territorial and national epidemiological indicators. The data also underpins the decisions made by the authorities to prevent and limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
A group of volunteer IT experts has developed an online application called the Medcast chatbot. Through the application, users can pre-diagnose COVID-19, monitor their symptoms, and report the data to their family doctor. At the same time, the platform provides details about the rules imposed during the state of emergency and lockdown.
The IT solution also works for medical workers, who after registering with their medical credentials, can obtain information from patients under monitoring and download reports on their health.
How does the application work?
- Having logged in to the platform, users answer 18 questions about their health condition.
- The data and results are reported to the family doctor.
- If the condition of one of the users with COVID-19-related symptoms suddenly worsens, the application offers the possibility of immediate reporting to the 112 service.
- If a high risk of infection is identified after the prediagnosis, the user will receive alerts, once every two hours, to report their trends of temperature, headaches, cough and other symptoms.
Shared experience and shared data: the added value of collaboration
In June, all the data systems developed by the Republic of Moldova to tackle the pandemic were presented at an EU4Digital eHealth Network meeting to discuss COVID-19 and data sharing of disease statistics, as well as country best practices in managing the pandemic.
During the online meeting, a representative of the European Commission presented the EU’s COVID-19 statistical dashboard on the European Commission Crisis Management Laboratory (ECML) Covid website, particularly focusing on the different collection methods and types of data used to populate the database.
Beyond 2021, EU4Digital is looking to support Moldova and its neighbours in three priority areas of eHealth: crossborder interoperability of eHealth systems, the adoption of national eHealth strategies, and the launch of initiatives and pilots to achieve cross-border eHealth services between Eastern partner countries and the EU.
An imperative response to the pandemic
The health crisis has highlighted the importance of technology at national and global levels, emphasising the need for rapid digital transformation, at all levels of society and the economy.
EU4Digital is a programme funded by the European Union to support digital economy and society. The programme aims to extend the benefits of the European Union’s Digital Single Market to the Eastern Partner states, channelling EU support to develop the potential of the digital economy and society, in order to bring economic growth, generate more jobs, improve people’s lives and help businesses.
Through EU4Digital, the EU supports Eastern Partnership countries in reducing roaming tariffs, developing high-speed broadband to boost economies and expand e-services, harmonising digital frameworks across society in areas ranging from logistics to health, building cyber security and developing digital skills.