COVID Apps: about failures and opportunities in digital health

Jose A. Vidal
Published in
4 min readOct 31, 2022


We continue to talk about failures that can give rise to positive readings to detect opportunities: only eight million downloads and 124,000 infections detected when the Government of Spain says goodbye to Radar COVID in October 9, 2022. Angel L. Jiménez makes a great analysis of the short history and usefulness of the tool that, from this very blog and at the time, we encourage you to download and use. In his article, Ángel points out:

“Since its launch, as indicated, only 124,555 codes for confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been entered. According to the latest report made public by the Ministry of Health on the epidemiological situation in Spain, the history of confirmed infections amounts to 13,441,941. In addition, considering that more than 8.6 million downloads of the application have been registered, the use of this has been negligible according to official figures.”

With that strategic union of Google and Apple in the middle of the pandemic, to develop the Exposure Notification (GAEN) system that would later have to be adapted and implemented by each country, the truth is that I personally never imagined that the result would be so poor.

COVID APPS: The Exposure notification (GAEN) system. Google & Apple.

At global level, some publications indicate that more research is needed to assess the degree to which these IT services and strategies were useful in reducing viral transmission. In Canada, they do not hesitate to publish a bibliography with their feedback and it seems that their keys are: conflicts over the loss of privacy of users in the transfer of data.

The failure of the Exposure Notification (GAEN) system only shows us opportunities in terms of digital health, in my opinion for these reasons:

  • due to the lack of education and/or social/collective awareness that makes us think about our own privacy when we had makeshift morgues to stack corpses, while the health workers worked totally exposed, without means and with very little information about the virus.
  • due to the existing need from health institutions -public and private- to implement integrated digital environments that allow them to access data in a centralized and homogeneous manner. It is certain that the integration of the Exposure Notification (GAEN) system has not been equally integrated and managed in real life in all health systems globally.
  • It is good to remember the lessons of value and price of a pandemic.

Success consists of going from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill.

The opportunity in digital health is evident, with the great challenge of educating users about their privacy, in addition to the obvious need of IT improvements in the different health ecosystems. Pablo Linde gives you some brilliant examples in the first reading pill of this post.

At the end of the year, we will review the most relevant advances we have seen on digital health in IT ecosystems, there is good news with regard to this.

In Memoriam César Nombela (1946–2022)

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Jose A. Vidal