Saturday 26 September, 2020

At-risk groups can soon self-screen for COVID-19

Che Bowen, President and CEO of MDLink, the tele-health company that has partnered with the IDB Lab to assist vulnerable groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Che Bowen, President and CEO of MDLink, the tele-health company that has partnered with the IDB Lab to assist vulnerable groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vulnerable groups such as those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly will soon be able to self-screen for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

A technical cooperation agreement between MDLink – a telemedicine platform and IDB Lab is paving the way to make this happen.

The IDB Lab the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group.

The initiative is to design and test a digital screening solution for COVID-19 on the MDLink telemedicine platform. The solution is expected to come on stream within a few months.

Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Jamaica Country Representative and General Manager for the Caribbean Country Group says COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of telemedicine as health professionals find innovative ways to deliver needed services whilst observing the necessary health protocols.

This platform is specially needed to help protect vulnerable groups as it allows patients to connect virtually and safely with locally registered doctors, without having to leave their homes over a secure platform.

Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Jamaica Country Representative

“Patients will be able to get expert guidance about whether they need to be seen or tested for COVID-19 instead of showing up unannounced at the emergency room or doctor’s office,” stated Turner-Jones

She added: “Some 5,000 persons with pre-existing health conditions and persons over 60 years will be directly impacted by the project. It will also take the pressure off the public health system and allow the health centres, hospitals including accident and emergency departments to deal with more critical cases including those related to COVID -19.”

COVID- 19 is a major concern for Jamaica as elderly persons, and those with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious symptoms should they contract the virus. Jamaica’s 2015 census reported that 12.6 per cent of the population are 60 years and over.

Over the last ten years the top three leading causes of death in Jamaica are stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

The rate of medical doctors and nurses to provide adequate coverage with primary care interventions in Jamaica is reportedly below the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 2.5 medical staff per 1,000 people. On average, the country has 0.5 medical doctors and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people.

With the recent opening of the country’s borders to tourists and the anticipated spike in new cases, Turner-Jones opined that the self- screening platform could potentially benefit the local health system as it grapples with the challenges of COVID-19 and speedily getting testing done.

MDLink is an innovative online telehealth company that allows patients to be diagnosed and treated online via its website and app. The company which is three years old is the first of its kind in the region.

Its mission is to increase access to affordable healthcare throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. So far it has helped over 10,000 patients. 200 doctors and 30,000 patients are registered on the platform.

Che Bowen, President and CEO of MDLink in explaining how the platform works says “we will enhance our existing platform with a telehealth COVID-19 solution integrating the use of artificial intelligence), and tele-triage with monitored referrals.

The platform will categorise various messages related to the screening results and the actions required by the patient. This will be sent to each patient once they complete the test.

Patients’ data is securely stored using international encryption standards. 

“Additionally, our client base of 30,000 who are already registered on our MDLink platform will also have access to the self-screening facility if needed. The best thing about the tool is that it is free to use,” Bowen further said.

Terry-Ann Segree IDB Lab Private Finance Operations Senior Specialist said “MDLink along with eight other Jamaican innovators responded to the IDB Lab’s call for prototypes to tackle the COVID-19 challenges being experienced in the region.  Their proposal demonstrated that start-ups are willing to take the risk to adapt their products and services based on market problems, thereby creating market-driven solutions. This is a good indicator of much more innovation to come.”  

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