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Articles from 2021 In April


Innovative methods set in motion advancements in CT

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PCR testing is regarded as the most accurate and reliable form of diagnosing COVID-19, however, complications caused by the disease such as pneumonia has paved way for a vital need of Radiology diagnostics for treatment. Since CT was introduced, technical innovations have decreased the patient risk by reducing radiation dose; and the probability of performance and interpretation errors of medical CT examinations, enabling an increase in clinical benefit.

As COVID can affect respiratory tracts, imaging tools such as chest radiography or CT scans are instrumental in the early diagnosis and treatment of the infection and identifying any complications caused by it. Coupled with AI integrations, developments in Radiology have been substantial especially with advancing imaging techniques.

How is CT instrumental in detecting COVID-19?

Emergency trauma radiology, a relatively new subspecialty of radiology has gained prominence in leading imaging departments towards diagnosis and treatment of acutely ill patients, more so in the wake of COVID-19. According to a study published by the Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal, based on a prospective analysis of 1014 patients, the sensitivity of CT is estimated to be 97 per cent in detecting COVID-19 infection with a high specificity reported to be between (93-100 per cent) of CT in differentiating COVID-19 from other viral pneumonia.

Highly accessible and useful in detecting features of the infection, chest radiographs provide an alternative diagnosis, however, CT scans have a high sensitivity of up to 98 per cent hence delivering superior delineation of disease involvement. AI integration has also been transformative in radiology, a promising notion has been its potential to further reduce the dose of radiation through patient positioning and acquisition parameter settings, and optimisation and automation of data acquisition processes. Hong Kong Medical Journal published a study discussing the relationship between Radiology and COVID-19. Artificial Intelligence algorithms have been implemented to support radiologists in rapid and accurate interpretation of images during the pandemic. Researchers have developed machine learning models by analysing CT radiomics and clinical factors that can predict the possibility of COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation with a promising accuracy of up to 75 per cent.

In as early as April 2020, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA announced the integration of UAE’s first specialised CT scan at Al Ain Hospital, screening 3,000 patients when initiated. The innovative 16- slice mobile CT scanner was pivotal in the quick and safe evaluation of detecting pneumonia caused by COVID-19. The new technology enables a larger area to be tested during a single scan, enabling superior and accurate imaging of the patient’s lungs.

“The new CT scanner enables us to tailor our treatment plans within very short timelines. We can evaluate eight patients per hour on average, with no human to human contact, thus minimising secondary infection rates without disrupting care delivery or quality,” explained Dr. Jamal Al-Din Al-Qutaish, head of radiology and intervention at Al Ain Hospital.

The potential for AI in healthcare

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has indeed seen a landmark rise in the last few years. Gone are the days where we could visualise such digitisation as part of any science fiction novel. Today, they have become intrinsic elements of our daily lives. Starting from AI assistants to chatbots to replace customer service representatives, AI has played a pivotal role in enhancing our lifestyle and comfort. More importantly, this digital aspect has dynamically transformed the healthcare sector. Machine learning and AI has recently showcased great dominance in the health industry by delivering some extraordinary work such as robotic surgery and 3D image analysis to offer remote diagnosis and treatment.

Although the pandemic has been devastating for all of us, it has fuelled incredible technological advancements. In just the first quarter of the year, almost US$1 billion was invested in AI-focused healthcare start-ups. Additionally, recent research suggests that the global industry is expected to grow by 44 per cent by the end of 2026. This massive growth calls for speculation on how AI has been integrated into some mainstream functionalities of the industry.

Keeping well

According to experts, AI is expected to play a significant role in ensuring that people stay healthy and fit. Professionals are designing a model or a system that would not require people to consult doctors, at least not as often as they do now. In recent times, AI with the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has already begun to support people with consumer health applications such as calorie tracking, weight tracking, basic routine health check-up applications. These digital apps are enabling people to be aware of one and encourage a healthy lifestyle and practice. Additionally, such AI-driven applications are allowing people to have more control of their actions and receive instant guidance, assistance and feedback.

Early detection

Early detection is an aspect of the healthcare sector that has gained immense prominence. AI is already being used to diagnose diseases such as cancer, accurately and at the early stages. According to the American Cancer Society, several mammograms led to false results where almost 50 per cent of women were said to have cancer. With the use of AI, many reviews were held to confirm the cases which drove the efficiency by 30 per cent with 99 per cent accurate reports. This led to the need for unnecessary biopsies that saved time by yielding early results. Moreover, AI wearables are on the rise which has enabled people to oversee the early stages of heart diseases and give doctors a better opportunity to monitor and even prevent any fatal situations.

Enhanced treatment

Not only does AI help in scanning medical records and check the identification of chronically ill individuals, but it also provides clinicians with a comprehensive approach towards disease management. With AI, doctors will be able to better coordinate a patient’s health plans, manage their treatments and comply with long-term programmes when required. Over the last three decades, robots have been used to fill in numerous roles. From laboratory services to highly complicated surgeries, robots have almost served as human assistants to doctors. Other things to which robots are used are conducting repetitive tasks, in rehabilitation centres, therapies and to treat long-term conditions.

Research

The journey from a research lab to patients is a long, tedious and expensive route. According to a leading Biomedical Research Association, it takes almost 12 years for a drug to reach a patient from a research lab. Additionally, only five in 5,000 drugs that have started their preclinical testing even make it to human testing. This process costs a company almost US$359 million for the development and translating it for consumers. The incorporation of AI in the drug research spectrum is quite a recent discovery where such digital tools are helping to streamline the process that can potentially save both time and costs.

In line with the recent developments in the healthcare industry, Capital University College has recently launched a new Master in E-Health Management in exclusive partnership with Italy’s international business school, Rome Business School. In line with this programme, students will be studying under the patronage of SIT – the Italian Society of Telemedicine that will enhance their skills and competencies to learn, manage, understand and apply advanced techniques in the healthcare industry.

This is a unique programme that combines electronic processes and communication strategies, bridging the gap between computer, health and communications and enabling one to become specialists in the health and management sector.

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Dr Batheja has been responsible for designing and structuring programmes for students pursuing courses in the healthcare industry.

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today, covering femtech, AI, IoT and much more.  

Manufacturer of mobile benches for scientific instruments now available in GCC

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ionBench, a renowned French manufacturer of mobile benches for scientific instruments, specially designed for Mass Spectrometers announced the availability of its products and latest innovations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. Supplying to pharmaceutical, environmental, clinical and university laboratories, and camel ride drug testing laboratories, ionBench products are designed to ease the day-to-day use of Liquid Chromatography / Gaz Chromatography/Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometer systems, by providing a significant number of features that make working conditions better for scientists and technicians.

ionBench has introduced dedicated benches for LC/GC/ICP/MS. They are movable with lockable casters and they save space. They include an integrated noise enclosure for vacuum pumps, can be equipped with features dedicated to PC workstation, solvent waste management and security systems.

One of the flagship products is the ionBench LC, which optimises the global performance of LC/MS systems. Its mobility and height adjustability allows scientist and technicians to place LC systems as close as possible to the Mass Spectrometer source. This minimises the void volume. Additionally, the height adjustability of the ionBench LC allows a scientist to reach the top of the LC without using a step tool. This contributes to lab safety and productivity as avoids accident and saves time. 

Users can also choose from the multiple configuration options to get the most optimum form of usage, increasing laboratory versatility.

“We are very proud to be supplying our products to respected pharmaceuticals companies, water and food testing laboratories, hospital and clinical laboratories, and R&D universities across the GCC. ionBench is the specialist for LC/ICP/GC/MS benches. We work in close cooperation with the device manufacturers, and we have a solution for every set-up. We are also the specialist in developing custom-made solutions and are hoping to continue sharing our latest innovations within this market,” said Pieter Dekocker – ionBench CEO

Key design features

  • Quieter environment with an integrated noise reduction enclosure, including a cooling system based on silent fan technology and with an overheating temperature alarm.
  • Increased accessibility with a fully movable Mass Spectrometer bench.
  • Vacuum pumps installed on a specific patented absorbing vibration rack.
  • Better ergonomics and security in labs, by using a bench designed for specific application taking into consideration desired requirements.
  • ionBench are compatible with all major Mass Spectrometry manufacturers, such as Agilent, Bruker, Jeol, Leco, Perkin Elmer, Sciex, Shimadzu, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waters.
Webinars

Webinar – From crisis to stability: Managing nursing resources and planning for post-pandemic

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Nurse leadership encompasses a mixture of clinical and administrative, and so this event will focus on resource management aspects of managing a successful operation, including people and finances, data (and use of that data), shared governance, informatics, and education across hospitals. It will also encompass communications strategies and ideas. The webinar was supported by and created with the Steering Group.

In this webinar, nurse leaders will learn from experienced leaders of the challenges faced, and strategies employed, in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

The challenges for smaller to larger facilities will be broadly similar, accepting that scale brings greater complexity, but all nurse leaders and aspirant leaders will learn through the experience of speakers and panel members.

Learning Objectives

  • Learning shared challenges and solutions from senior nurse leaders
  • Hearing practical examples to implement in the hospital
  • Hearing examples of good communications tactics and strategies
  • Learning about the importance of emotional intelligence in the management of staff and facilities
  • Budgetary control and management

 

3D tumour models engineered from common filter paper

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A team of researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi has developed groundbreaking high throughput paper-based arrays of 3D tumour models preserved through freezing. By engineering common filter papers, similar to coffee filters, the researchers have created high throughput arrays of miniaturised 3D tumour models to replicate key aspects of tumour physiology, which are absent in traditional drug testing platforms.

The developed technology can be transferred to other trending therapeutic applications such as measuring tumour response to drug concentration gradients, studying cancer cell signalling pathways, and investigations of invasive tumours.

Published in the journal Lab on a Chip, the paper presented a paper patterning method for high throughput culture, cryopreservation, and drug testing of 3D tumour models. Compared to existing approaches, the research showed that their technology offers a lower cost, easier and faster experimental procedure. It also shows that the patterned 3D tumour arrays can be cryopreserved for prolonged periods and thawed for on-demand use, providing a great advantage for tissue engineering and personalised medicine applications.

In their work, the team presented a robust method to create high throughput arrays of cell aggregates (3D tumour models) on a single paper platform for cryopreservation and drug screening applications. The technology allows for long-term storage of the 3D tumour arrays and subsequent thawing for drug testing. It first utilises the inexpensive, bench-top 3D printing technology to create masks with through-holes to selectively pattern silanised paper, via simple chemistry alterations, with an array of highly localised hydrophilic ‘virtual microwells’. Cell aggregation is then facilitated within the microwells, hereafter referred to as microspots, which are surrounded by hydrophobic regions, or ‘virtual barriers’, that prevent cell inter-microspot mixing.

3D tumour models can help enhance outcomes

The research shows that the generated paper-based 3D tumour arrays can be successfully cryopreserved and thawed for on-demand use, which could also be potentially utilised in the future as off-the-shelf components stacked together for building advanced and sophisticated tumour models.

Led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at NYUAD Mohammad A. Qasaimeh, the researchers sought to develop 3D tumour models because they offer great potential for understanding the fundamental mechanisms governing tumour responses to drug treatments and provide opportunities to develop a number of emerging therapeutic applications. Most preclinical drug screening is currently conducted on simplified two-dimensional (2D) monolayers of cell culture, which do not fully represent the complexity of human tissues and organs.

By testing cisplatin (a typical chemotherapeutic drug) on breast cancer 3D models generated within the developed platform, they proved that their technology is capable of predicting the outcomes of drug efficacy.

Reusing protective clothing against droplet infections – conceivable or utopian?

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Whether and how protective clothing and utensils can be reused against droplet infections is currently part of the public debate. But despite the increased incidence of infection and associated supply bottlenecks, the medical community has been hesitant to respond, for good reason, as conventional disposable clothing offers reliable protection that must first be ensured and proven for reusable textiles. A new study on the wettability of coated cleanroom garments takes an important step.

The materials studied as part of a research collaboration showed very good liquid-repellent properties, as required to shield infectious droplets. The contact angle method, which was the focus of the study, proved to be valid and can potentially be used as an easily accessible method for testing medical protective clothing. In addition to the Hamburg-based measuring equipment manufacturer KRÜSS, the study involved Dastex Reinraumzubehör (engl. Cleanroom accessories) GmbH & Co. KG, and OHB System AG, which played a key role in initiating the study.

How cleanroom coveralls become droplet-repellent protective clothing

The textiles under investigation are actually used for cleanroom clothing in satellite manufacturing, where they primarily protect the environment. For potential medical use, the fabrics were given a hydrophobic PTFE coating. This modification ideally prevents wetting by infectious droplets and their absorption so that they fall off or evaporate on the surface. The detection of such hydrophobic properties is a typical issue in contact angle measurement technology.

Practical wetting tests prove good hydrophobic properties

First, the fabric was certified to have excellent liquid-repellent behaviour on the basis of larger water droplets. To further investigate the protection in contact with coughing or sneezing patients, tiny droplets were applied to the materials at high speed. Microscopy-based contact angle measurements also demonstrated a good protective effect for this situation, which could even be verified on the basis of individual fibres. Reuse was also shown to be feasible. After 120 washing cycles, no impairment of the water-repellent material properties could be detected.

Contact angle measurement as a valid test method for protective clothing

Until now, the protective effect of medical clothing could only be determined in specialised laboratories. In contrast, coated textiles for other uses are often tested using improvised methods that are hardly scientifically adequate. Contact angle measurements, on the other hand, are not only valid for characterising hydrophobic textiles but can also be carried out quickly, easily and on a mobile basis.

In parallel, scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht at DESY, together with quality analysis (Nürtingen) and Volume Graphics (Heidelberg), have visualised the round shapes of non-wetting droplets in high-resolution computed tomographic studies.

There is still a long way to go before medical facilities can switch to reusable protective clothing. But it is certainly worthwhile, not only for ecological reasons and in the event of supply bottlenecks. Doctors and nurses could benefit from more comfortable and breathable protective clothing.

Five healthcare trends to watch in 2021

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Many healthcare organisations are looking forward to 2021 – and for good reason. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, vital healthcare equipment was in short supply. Budgets quickly became strained as elective procedures were halted or voluntarily delayed by patients and as COVID spread, healthcare workers and the systems they support quickly became overwhelmed.

Despite the many challenges of 2020, healthcare organisations have gained considerable insights and experience that will transform healthcare well into the future. Today, hospitals are already adopting technologies that are helping them realise critical cost savings and productivity benefits. These advancements promise to become mainstream after the pandemic is a distant memory. Here are some of the trends you can expect in 2021.

Focus on the supply chain

Even before the pandemic, supply chain inefficiencies cost hospitals more than US$25.7 billion each year, according to an analysis from Guidehouse. The pandemic further exacerbated those shortcomings. Ventilators and basic supplies needed to keep patients and clinicians safe, such as hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment (PPE), were hard to come by.

As we look forward to 2021, we are seeing hospitals increasingly embracing technologies such as barcodes, radio frequency identification (RFID) and real-time location systems (RTLS) to gain unprecedented visibility and control of their supply chain and inventory management systems. These visibility enhancements will also help hospitals reduce inventory waste due to unused and expired supplies.

Streamlining patient care

Beds also became a scarce resource at many hospitals in 2020. Next year, more hospitals will explore new ways to move patients through the system faster. Hospitals can use both location technologies and mobile computers to track and streamline treatment throughout a patient’s stay. Using these technologies, hospitals can create an “electronic whiteboard” that records everything from specimen analysis and X-rays to physical therapy.

Hospitals can then monitor precisely how long each treatment takes and identify where workflow bottlenecks exist. For instance, is it difficult to find a wheelchair to transport a discharged patient? Are there regular backups in X-ray, laboratory testing, social services or other areas that affect patient care?

Technology has proven highly effective in improving patient turnaround times and hospital workflows. RTLS tags, for example, can be added to wheelchairs so that nurses can locate them quickly to speed patient discharge. Once the patient is wheeled out of the room, nurses can use their purpose-built mobile devices to notify housekeeping that the room is available for cleaning.

Research shows that technologies like RTLS can result in up to 50 per cent faster bed turnover times and as much as a three-hour reduction in patient length of stay. In a 275-bed hospital, cutting just four hours off the average hospital stay is the same as adding 10 new beds.

Making healthcare professionals’ jobs easier

Staff burnout became a huge issue in 2020 with hospital facilities and their clinicians struggling to keep up. One way to decrease burnout is to make clinicians’ roles easier. To accomplish this, many hospitals are again turning to technology to facilitate better clinician communications and improve workflows.

Purpose-built mobile devices that allow nurses and doctors to communicate better and streamline workflows effectively reduce stress for providers while also improving patient care. At the same time, handheld mobile computers help mitigate alarm fatigue by sending alerts directly to the right caregiver. Nurses can use those same mobile devices to enter vitals directly into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) while at the bedside, thus reducing the amount of time they spend on charting and reducing errors.

Doctors and nurses armed with mobile devices can be notified immediately when a patient gets test results – and can quickly communicate how those results might affect patient treatment. No wonder surveys show that 97 per cent of bedside nurses and 98 per cent of physicians foresee relying on mobile technology by 2022.

Stemming the spread of infections

“Sanitise everything!” became a mantra in 2020 as COVID continued to spread. But the need for sanitisation in healthcare organisations has always been critical, given that healthcare-acquired infections affect an estimated 1.7 million patients each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, in 2020, some hospitals found that their non-rugged devices could not withstand repeated cleaning and sanitising because they were not built with healthcare-grade plastics. In 2021, we will see more hospitals adopt mobile computers, printers and handheld scanners that are purpose-built to withstand repeated wipe downs with approved cleaning agents to reduce the spread of infection.

Telehealth will continue to grow

When telehealth became more accepted in 2020, some hospitals used technology to create “virtual doctors” by mounting rugged mobile tablets on IV poles that allowed specialists to interact with patients via video. Many hospitals found that this virtual solution resulted in faster care for patients because specialists could handle multiple consults without wasting time traveling between rooms or hospitals. In 2021, more hospitals will rely heavily on virtual patient consultations for more efficient patient care while also keeping both patients and clinicians safe.

Looking forward

There is no doubt that the pandemic of 2020 will have a lasting impact on healthcare. The good news is that these lessons learned will have a positive impact on the way healthcare facilities manage their inventory and workflows going forward.

Bioavailability technology ensures efficient delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream

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Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH), a leading wellness group and manufacturer of reusable PPE, antimicrobial disinfectants, and hygienic paper products, recently launched the Motiva Immuno and Neuro Boosters – expanding its current portfolio of innovative wellness products to benefit a broader range of consumers in the UAE and wider region.

Using all-natural ingredients, the clinically tested supplements use a combination of carefully sourced ingredients and bioavailability technology to ensure efficient delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream – a technique that dramatically increases the effectiveness of supplements over the source ingredients.

The Motiva Immuno and Neuro Booster products are officially registered in the UAE market and have been recognised by the Medical Wellness Association, the renowned international leader for medical wellness professionals, best practices, programs, research, education, training, and services based in the U.S.

Fine Hygienic Holding CEO James Michael Lafferty said: “Bioavailability determines the amount of a substance that enters your bloodstream. When applying this to supplements, it means a more effective dosage of nutrients and vitamins. You get the health benefits you’re looking for and without it, you’re wasting your money.”

Health benefits

Developed to help with metabolism, joint support, and immunity, as well as reduce blood pressure and control blood sugar levels, the Motiva Immuno Booster contains curcumin – the active ingredient found in turmeric – and vitamins D3 and B12.

“Curcumin, the active principal in turmeric, has long been recognised as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can dramatically improve immune status with a host of clinical studies proving its immunomodulating properties,” said Dr. Michal Heger, Professor of Photonanomedicine at Utrecht University and Jiaxing University Medical College. “However, the issue with curcumin is when it is digested normally, it is poorly absorbed by our body and results in low bioavailability. Traditionally, large doses need to be consumed to have any lasting or positive impact on various aspects of health and well-being.”

Motiva’s breakthrough technology enables curcumin solubility in water, prevents its degradation, and counteracts the low bioavailability of curcumin. Consequently, Immuno Booster ensures considerably better uptake of the curcumin, delivering all the health benefits to the consumer at a much lower curcumin dosage compared to other curcumin and turmeric food supplements.

The Motiva Neuro Booster has been developed to improve brain health, cognitive function, and focus, while reducing brain fog and improving immunity. It contains potent ingredients such as stabilised rice bran, golden flaxseed, sunflower lecithin, dioscorea, and citric acid. The product’s enhanced absorption properties come from BiAloe – one of the most bioavailable sources of aloe vera polysaccharides, acemannan.

“Acemannan is a complex polysaccharide found in the inner leaf gel of the aloe plant that is responsible for the majority of the health benefits associated with aloe vera and stabilised rice bran contains over 450 phytochemicals, more than 200 of which are amino acids, minerals, and vitamins that have significant health properties,” said Dr. John E. Lewis, Voluntary Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“In today’s day and age, we are overfed and undernourished,” explained Lafferty. “Due to a lack of proper diet and essential nutrients, we are exposing ourselves to infection, cancer, and other lifestyle diseases. Our best and the first line of defence is our immune system, and ensuring it is fortified means you can protect yourself from diseases that account for 70 per cent of global deaths a day.”

“What makes it even more compelling is all the ingredients in the supplements are found naturally. All it takes is dedication to extract the correct substances and package in a way so our bodies can absorb it.”

Vigilant glucose-monitoring is key to fasting safely during Ramadan

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To ensure people with diabetes are fasting safely, they should seek the advice of a doctor ahead of Ramadan, and throughout the fasting period, they will need to be vigilant in checking their blood sugar levels, and will need to know the health risks and warning signs to watch for, advises an expert from Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), a Mubadala Health partner.

Dr Farhana Bin Lootah, an internal medical consultant at ICLDC, explains that the four main risks of fasting for a person with diabetes are hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), dehydration, and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a serious complication of diabetes involving very high sugar levels together with the formation of excess acids in the blood.

In general, people with type 1 diabetes are exempt from fasting, although it is possible for this category to fast healthily in certain cases, while some people with type 2 diabetes will also be advised not to fast. Dr Lootah explains that when patients seek advice, their doctor will consider their type of diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes), their medical history including kidney health, and whether their blood sugar has been well-controlled for a significant period, among other factors.

Once cleared for fasting, patients will need to check their blood sugar several times a day, Dr Lootah says, as the levels can fluctuate significantly when the body enters into a fasting state and after breaking the fast, particularly if the iftar meal is a large one.

“Your body enters into a fasting state around eight hours after your last meal, and it will initially use stored sources of glucose, which can increase the risk of low blood sugar on some medications and/or insulin,” she explains.

Self-monitoring of glucose levels is essential and approved both in religious and medical contexts. “Religious scholars agree that taking blood samples either by finger-pricking or by a needle from arm veins to check blood-sugar levels does not invalidate the fast, and doctors agree it is important to perform the tests as they help patients fast safely,” says Dr Lootah.

Suggested timings for blood-glucose monitoring

Dr Lootah says that the recommended frequency of blood tests depends on the level of diabetes control and which form of diabetes is present. In general terms, though, a minimum of one to two tests per day is recommended for people with type 2 diabetes, and a minimum of two to three tests for type 1.

ICLDC suggests the following potential timetable and targets:

Before suhoor: blood glucose targets should be 120-140mg/dl

Mid-morning: blood glucose targets should be 140-180mg/dl

Midday: blood glucose targets should be 120-180mg/dl

Before iftar: blood glucose targets should not be below 70mg/dl

2 hours after iftar: blood glucose targets should not be above 180mg/dl

At any time when there are symptoms suggestive of low blood sugar or high blood sugar or when feeling unwell

Dr Lootah adds that patients should be prepared to immediately break their fast if they have any of the following signs:

  • Blood sugar level of less than 70 mg/dl
  • Blood sugar level of more than 300 mg/dl
  • Symptoms of low blood sugar (for example, feeling dizzy, sweaty or shaky, blurred vision, confusion or inability to think clearly, loss of consciousness)
  • Symptoms of acute illness (for example, vomiting or diarrhoea)

In addition to checking blood sugar levels, people with diabetes will need to drink plenty of water during non-fasting hours to avoid the increased risk of dehydration, Dr Lootah advises.

“In short, with appropriate planning and monitoring, and by enlisting the help of a medical expert, a person with diabetes will be far better equipped to handle the unique set of challenges he or she faces during Ramadan,” Dr Lootah says.

How digital communications can help fight the pandemic and beyond

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Healthcare services across the world could have never foreseen, just 12 months ago, the unprecedented level of disruption and immense challenges they would be facing throughout 2020 and now continuing into 2021. Additionally, during this time, there’s been significant disruption and equally transformative innovation in how technology has helped to evolve and adapt the access to, and delivery of, a range of healthcare services. Just like how hundreds of millions of people around the world have switched to a work-from-home model, so healthcare has had to rapidly evolve to a digitally delivered virtual service where it was practical to do so.

Avaya has been working with healthcare services across the globe to help this evolution in virtual services. From automated video services that maintain precious contact between COVID- 19 patients and their families unable to visit them; to developing a video-enabled chatbot service which helps share COVID-19 information to deaf and hard-of-hearing patients; or creating Artificial Intelligence-enabled services that help reduce the huge volume of calls into hospitals from the public while also informing the public of vaccination plans. These are just a few of the services developed and made available to help organisations and patients adapt around the challenges of the pandemic.

A citizen’s healthcare and vaccination journey

The most immediate challenge facing healthcare services will be the huge administrative job of vaccine roll-out while simultaneously providing their normal day-to-day patient services. To effectively immunise the population, healthcare providers need to quickly engage and communicate with those who need the vaccine while responding to the massive influx of enquiries and ongoing healthcare services simultaneously.

The engagement tools to help healthcare organisations carry out these tasks need to leverage automation and provide continual monitoring and reporting. This will optimise those communications services and workflows and eliminate the need to dedicate valuable healthcare staff resources to manual, time- consuming tasks while also helping to keep citizens informed and assured. A solution is needed that allows health providers to quickly customise and deploy automated services to address the complexities of the vaccine roll-out along with all other healthcare services which can be defined as comprising the following components:

Citizen awareness: citizen outreach (advising specific individuals which phase of the rollout they qualify for), eligibility checks, rollout phase registration and answering vaccine FAQs.

Rollout coordination: practitioner- resource recruitment via outbound messages (‘can you come in and administer the vaccine?’) and inbound messages (‘sign up for administering the vaccine’), vaccine FAQs for practitioners, etc.

Appointment management: qualification registration, locating the closest vaccine site for a candidate, scheduling patient appointments and appointment reminders.

First vaccination shot: contactless screening, arrival check-in, vaccination confirmation, post-shot instructions.

Between/post shot: post-shot FAQ, reporting of possible side effects, reporting of Covid symptoms/status (if a positive case), reminder to get second dose of vaccine and by what date, site locator for where you can get it, scheduling the visit, and reminder once appointment is made.

Second vaccination shot: same process as first shot appointment.

Avaya’s Healthcare solutions enable health service providers to proactively engage with citizens via automated voice calls, e-mail, Chatbot, SMS and MMS notifications to generate better awareness of the healthcare services such as COVID-19 and get more people signed up in a timely fashion.

These notifications can be used for appointment reminders, follow-ups (‘You’re due for your second dose on XXX date’), arrival check-ins, contactless screening, and can also include post-vaccine surveys for recipients to safely report side effects. These notifications can be sent to both individuals and groups with optional response tracking, text interaction, and auto-forms to capture information that helps improve critical decision-making.

Assisting the fight

Avaya is talking from experience as its solutions include many innovations that have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. For example, Nebraska Medicine, one of the U.S. state’s largest healthcare systems with a network of nearly 40 specialty and primary care health centres, prepared for expected increases in call volume by using Avaya OneCloud to rapidly deploy a cloud-based conversational platform to help them prioritise essential calls and reduce workload on their customer service agents while continuing to deliver outstanding patient care.

The company’s virtual care solutions have also been at the forefront of helping infected patients and their families to maintain critical, supportive communication. Avaya Video solutions were deployed at a number of hospitals across China that helped staff as well as patients to communicate and collaborate during very difficult, demanding times. For example, the company deployed a fully-automated video conferencing solution at the Huoshenshan Hospital in the Wuhan province, which was famously fully constructed and admitting patients within nine days. This solution was designed to allow patients in enclosed ICU clinics to have secure, quality video calls with their family in the hope that such communications could help boost a patient’s positivity and motivation in fighting the virus. In another example of the COVID-19 battle, the features such as symptom-checking, testing, and then vaccine adoption are elements of combating the pandemic which are accelerated by enabling citizens to self-qualify via automated services such as an AI-assisted chatbots. As an example of this, Avaya partnered with the Ministry of Communication and Information in Egypt to develop and roll out a user-friendly chatbot service designed to help citizens who were deaf and hard of hearing overcome challenges with COVID-19. The chatbot service uses sign language with artificial intelligence to help citizens to receive advice and guidance in relation to healthcare services and Covid-19 on a mobile app or web browser, a service which was a first of its kind in the Arabic or African world.

In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah Medical City has been successful in coordinating an effective Covid-19 response, helping to slow its spread and meeting the population’s medical needs while keeping healthcare providers safe by setting up expert steering committees that can meet and collaborate safely through Avaya Spaces. Avaya Spaces Video Consultation, an Avaya Spaces add-on specifically designed to enable safe healthcare virtual consultations, puts safety and security first. Although customers can access their video consultation from any connected device, it is only a one-link invite that allows them to connect to a virtual waiting room before being seen by a member of the Medical team. The same link can permit a patient to reconnect to the session should they be disconnected due to bandwidth or connectivity issues. Once the patient has completed their session and disconnected, all data associated with session, such as chat history, patient name, and shares files, are destroyed in order to protect patient data rules and regulations. Avaya Spaces Video Consultation makes it easy and quick to schedule, queue, and conduct video consultations without needing to download apps or plugins.

Healthcare continuity

Avaya OneCloud healthcare solutions are also playing a vital role in enhancing the experience for patients, families, care teams and all others that touch the patient journey. Avaya enables healthcare organisations to engage across the care continuum delivering experiences that matter when they truly matter most. By connecting people, resources, data, and more, Avaya is helping customers optimise their operations and reduce risk while strengthening the level of care they can provide to patients and customers.

American Hospital Dubai (AHD), one of the pioneering private healthcare providers in the Middle East distinguished for its outstanding facilities and care standards, recently partnered with Avaya to improve patient outcomes. With superior call centre operations and customer relationship management capabilities, AHD has personalised the patient experience, simplified access to care and helped streamline operations. The technologies implemented align with the hospital’s healthcare delivery transformation journey by enabling it to serve patients with the most appropriate, convenient, and cost-effective care, making sure care providers are with them at every step of the journey, on the communications channels they choose. The Avaya solution has helped AHD aggregate various data – such as patients’ demographics, interactions with its website and call centre, and financial and other relevant details – to create a comprehensive profile for its patients. The digital solutions implemented by American Hospital Dubai give patients a range of ways to connect with the provider, supporting multiple inbound and outbound communication channels. They also streamline behind-the-scenes systems that keep up with data and information. Through a CRM connector that integrates with the Hospital Information System, the hospital has shortened patient call response times. This is supplemented with an extensive knowledge base, which drastically reduces call times, ticket-issuing time, and improves patient satisfaction. By connecting people, resources, data, and solutions, Avaya helps American Hospital Dubai optimise its operations and helps care team members communicate seamlessly so that they are more accessible.

What has arguably been the most difficult time in public health history has become a defining moment of reform in health services, not just related to epidemics but also to serve the basic needs of patients. Beyond COVID-19, healthcare providers such as Shared Health Manitoba are using Avaya OneCloud solutions to automatically triage calls and help customers get the services they need. Avaya solutions are also assisting with the proactive engagement of patients to support with general appointment reminders, follow-ups and costly patient no-shows. Even healthcare adjacent institutions, such as Olmsted County in Minnesota, are experiencing great success with virtual waiting rooms.

People are suffering due to COVID-19, but they are also suffering because communications are being stretched to the limit. Healthcare providers need to be able to handle more interactions, over distance, with fewer human resources. They need to have more creative options to engage and inform. They need a more elastic communications network. Not just now during crisis mode, but long-term. By embracing digital communications as a service, healthcare providers can hasten and streamline the rollout of this life-saving vaccine as well as creating a communications service that enables a more interactive, engaged patient with their healthcare services, that ultimately will better protect the patient and our populations.

Dave O’Shaughnessy, Healthcare Leader for EMEA and APAC, Avaya.jpg

Dave O’Shaughnessy