Opinion: Industries will be transformed by the innovation that comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic


by Jessica Octavio, Staff Writer

When the rise of new, unprecedented problems meets a scarcity of time and resources: this is where innovation begins.

Although the solutions to issues from paying bills at home to meeting needs at the hospital lie just beyond the horizon for many Americans, the great challenge that the coronavirus has presented to our community has encouraged — even demanded — rapid, innovative shifts across all sectors.

At San Diego State, it is impossible to ignore the impact that Zoom has had on our classroom environment in the past month. Faculty and students alike have had to quickly transition and completely reformat existing class structures to fit the remote environment using technology like Zoom, ProctorU and Blackboard. 

As student organizations and other groups within SDSU are faced with either canceling, postponing or virtually hosting events, our community has the opportunity to understand what’s at the core of human connection when we’re physically apart. 

Am I happy that millions of college students are forced to be the guinea pigs for this wild experiment in education? 

Not quite. 

Although it’s unfortunate that many of the roadblocks of these new adjustments can only be overcome with trial and error, the silver lining is that the right infrastructure is out there to provide decent education and community-building online. 

With online infrastructure and educators themselves being pushed to their limits in these extenuating circumstances, there is an amazing opportunity for us as a society to keep the ball rolling and apply these techniques to educating our communities that had low access to education in the first place once this pandemic is all over.

Coronavirus is also shedding light on the potential of video conferencing in another essential industry: health care. Telemedicine describes educational and clinical services provided by health care providers using telecommunications. With the need for social distancing, this technology is essential as our society aims to prevent the oversaturation of patients in hospitals across the nation. 

Major health care consortiums, like Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health, already offer a series of remote appointment options, including video appointments. Another health giant taking advantage of telecommunication is BetterHelp, a behavioral health service that offers counseling via text chat, video and phone call. 

And when things get back to normal, the convenience of telemedicine will reshape how we receive care. You can skip the uninviting, sterile environment of your doctor’s waiting room and the awkward twenty minutes spent waiting on that crinkly paper of the exam table and instead connect with your physician in an instant via video call. For patients who are out of the area for the health provider that is covered by their insurance, time and access to transportation will no longer be a barrier to care. 

Although a lot of existing technology has proven useful in addressing issues related to coronavirus, universities, corporations and start-ups are working tirelessly to come up with innovative solutions. SDSUs’ very own professor Kevin Wood, along with graduate students Jack Lucas and Tyler Lestak, have developed an affordable prototype for ventilators using common components. With San Diego being one of the epicenters of innovative biotechnology, there are several local companies in the process of developing COVID-related treatments and vaccines

Coronavirus has brought on a lot of uncomfortable and challenging changes. But we have to remember that a majority of these changes are a result of people being proactive about contributing to a preventive public health effort to flatten the curve. 

This pandemic has flipped the status quo. The world we return to will not be the world that we left behind. What was normal will matter a little bit less, and we will be called to look at our lives differently and find out-of-the-box solutions we didn’t think were possible before.

Jessica Octavio is a sophomore studying microbiology.