As countries all over the world are fighting against the spread of COVID-19, researchers worldwide are offering their scientific expertise to assist public health authorities to tackle the challenges caused by this pandemic. Right from the beginning, the KIOS Research and Innovation Center of Excellence (KIOS CoE) made a strategic decision to support national efforts in Cyprus to effectively confront the COVID-19 outbreak. To that end, a KIOS CoE team of 30 people, consisting of professors, postdoc researchers, research engineers, software engineers and PhD students, volunteered to utilize their expertise in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), data analysis and emergency response management to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 virus pandemic crisis in Cyprus.
Emergency Management System for Handling COVID-19 Cases
The KIOS CoE team of volunteers in collaboration with the Cyprus Ministry of Health and the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, developed and set up an “Emergency Management System for Handling COVID-19 Cases”. The developed system is a vital tool for the Ministry of Health in managing the spread of COVID-19 and is used for recording, analyzing and managing all suspect and confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cyprus. The system has been operational and fully utilized by the Cyprus Ministry of Health since the 15th March, 2020 just a few days after the first confirmed cases in Cyprus.
The emergency management system developed by KIOS CoE, provides a distributed data management service with multiple interfaces for the different user roles. Furthermore, it automates the processes for scheduling of test-sampling of patients at health centers, the reporting of test results, and patient notification of their test results.
Initially, the system was utilized by the health professionals at the Cyprus Ministry of Health and the first responders of the emergency response hotline 1420, which is used to report possible cases of COVID-19. The first responders are able to electronically record any suspicious symptoms and gather initial data on persons calling the hotline. The relevant information is then accessed in real time, by the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit of the Cyprus Ministry of Health.
Within a few days from the initial set up, the system was upgraded, to enable the tracking of all confirmed cases, including the registration of potential transmissions of the infection through contacts, and the collection of test results. The system algorithms enabled the analysis of the data in real-time and the visualization of the information through dashboards, thus providing a valuable resource for the health experts and decision makers, to obtain up-to-date information on the spread of the virus in Cyprus. Furthermore, the system accelerated the process of identifying suspected and confirmed Coronavirus incidents in Cyprus, thus assisting health professionals in managing and containing the spread of the virus.
By the end of March, the system was also being used by Personal doctors nationwide to record incidents and alert the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit, and the clinical labs. The KIOS system also facilitated immediate access to records of test results and automated the process of informing citizens of their test results.
According to the Cyprus Public Health Centers Coordinator, Ms. Denise Alexandrou, “The Emergency Management System for Handling Emergency COVID-19 Cases, was developed in a remarkably short period of time by the KIOS Center of Excellence of the University of Cyprus. The system is smart, user-friendly and includes capabilities of electronic recording and immediate data recovery. It offers the opportunity for an effective navigation – because of the smart algorithm – of suspected COVID-19 cases, from the personal doctors to the Public Health Centers, and thus the completion of clinical assessment and test sampling, if necessary. The fact that the system allows the continuous modification through feedback from end-users constitutes a key point in assisting the efforts of the government of Cyprus in the fight against COVID-19”.
Web Portal for Information on the Spread of Covid-19 in Cyprus
At the beginning of April, the KIOS CoE team of volunteers developed an interactive “Web Portal for Information on the Spread of Covid-19 in Cyprus”. The portal presents a map and dashboards that provide up-to-date information on the number of confirmed cases by district and postal area, age and gender statistics, as well as several other statistics. The information on the map is retrieved from the “Emergency Management System for Handling COVID-19 Cases” and is updated every four hours.
This portal is used on the official site of the Government of Cyprus to display statistics on the spread of the virus.
Acknowledgments by the Ministry of Health and the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy
In a joint announcement, the Cyprus Health Minister, Mr. Constantinos Ioannou, and the Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, Mr. Kyriakos Kokkinos, expressed their gratitude and thanked the KIOS CoE research team for the hard work in implementing this project and supporting the Government’s efforts in confronting the pandemic.
“The KIOS Emergency Management System for Handling COVID-19 Cases contributes significantly in reducing the time for tracking suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cyprus and assisting the Government in making vital decisions”, they concluded.
The KIOS CoE Director, Professor Marios Polycarpou, stated that the Center’s collaboration with both the Cyprus Health Ministry and the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy was made possible by the forward-thinking approach of the Ministers. He believes this collaboration demonstrates how it is possible to utilize technological know-how to develop valuable ICT tools that can be used to manage emergency situations such as this one and ultimately help to promote the safety and well-being of citizens.
He also felt it was important to note that, “the KIOS CoE team of volunteers, led by the Research Assistant Professors, Panayiotis Kolios and Demetris Eliades, stepped up for help immediately after the first confirmed cases and contributed greatly in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The KIOS researchers developed innovative technological solutions and tools that have been utilized by the Cyprus Ministry of Health since the beginning of the crisis and helped to confront this emergency situation quickly and effectively. On behalf of the KIOS Center of Excellence, we feel gratitude and pride for the work carried out by the team of volunteers, who have been working long hours on this initiative”, he concluded.
This initiative provides additional motivation for the KIOS Center of Excellence to further translate its research and innovation outcomes conducted at the Center into practical tools that can be used for the safety and well-being of citizens.