Ameera Hamid

eLearning Specialist and Disruptive Innovator in eHealth

  • Computer aided detection for TB (CAD4TB) installed across Ghana

    A target of sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to end tuberculosis (TB) globally by 2030.  Effective prevention, detection and treatment is necessary to achieve this goal.  Ghana is in the global high burden list for TB, but is tackling this burden using eHealth innovations. 


    In collaboration with Delft Imaging Systems, they have successfully installed 51 X-ray systems in facilities, containers and TB screening mobile clinics across the country.  These mobile X-ray systems are self sustainable, employing solar technology to power them, even in the remotest of locations.  All X-ray systems have been equipped with computer aided detection (CAD4TB) software that makes use of machine learning to detect TB in X-rays.  Additionally, tele-radiology technology is used to interlink all images to a central platform that allows healthcare providers across connected facilities and units to access images.


    The innovation allows healthcare providers to screen up to 200 images per day.  When the images reveal a high CAD4TB score, patients are referred for the standard and more expensive GeneExpert tests.  This makes detecting TB in poorer communities very effective. 


    It is eHealth innovations like this that will strengthen health systems in Ghana and other African countries, while still being conservative of the constrained health budgets in Africa.


  • Data accuracy: another use case for blockchain

    As blockchain technology continues to excite the healthcare industry with opportunities for better access to healthcare data, data security and efficiency, 5 companies have banded together to explore another use case for it. 


    Many managed care organisations, health systems, physicians, and other healthcare stakeholders currently maintain separate copies of healthcare provider data.  Reconciling differences in this data can be a time-consuming and expensive processes.  Blockchain could help bring down administrative costs by ensuring data is complete and accurate across all parties.


    Humana, MultiPlan, Optum, Quest Diagnostics and UnitedHealthcare recently announced a cooperative pilot program to use blockchain technology to share healthcare provider data across organisations.  This aims to improve accuracy, streamline administrative activities and improve access to care. It will also examine whether sharing healthcare provider data inputs and changes made by parties across a blockchain can reduce operational costs and improve data quality. 


    With technology's rapid advances, it's critical that African countries make room for these types of emerging opportunities in their eHealth strategies. Along with rigorous prospective assessments to ensure viability and sustainability.


  • Philips introduces AI tools for healthcare efficiency

    HIMSS Conference and Exhibition is synonymous for sharing new innovations and showcasing next world technology.  At HIMMS18 in Las Vegas, Phillips announced the launch of a new set of tools that supports the progressive adoption of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in key healthcare domains.


    Their HealthSuite Insights gives data scientists, software developers, clinicians and healthcare providers access to advanced analytic resources to compile and analyse healthcare data.  It also offers tools and technologies to build, maintain, deploy and scale AI-based solutions. 


    AI-based solutions have great potential to improve patient outcomes and healthcare efficiency. However, developing and deploying AI solutions for healthcare use cases can be time consuming, resource intensive and expensive.  Philips’ Insights Marketplace can help with this.  The Insights Marketplace will provide the healthcare industry’s first ecosystem where curated AI assets from Philips and others are readily available for license. 


    Philip’s HealthSuite Insights and Insights Marketplace may help accelerate Africa’s eHealth development. African countries are increasingly aware of the necessity of technology in improving the performance of healthcare.  Some parts of Africa have already started integrating artificial intelligence in their healthcare systems.


  • Facebook’s using AI to prevent suicides

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a suicide occurs every 40 seconds globally.  Social, psychological, cultural and other factors can interact to lead a person to suicidal behavior.  Facebook believes that they are uniquely positioned to help combat suicides amongst adolescents and its users.


    They’re using AI and smart algorithms to detect suicidal tendencies and patterns.  The AI software scans users’ messages and posts for signs of suicide, such as asking someone if they are troubled.  Facebook already has tools in place for people to report concerns about friend's who may be considering self-harm, but the new AI software can speed the process and even detect signs people may overlook. 


    Posts that are flagged as worrisome are communicated to first-responders.  It’s also dedicating more human moderators to suicide prevention, training them to deal with the cases 24/7. They have partnered with organisations like Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Forefront from to provide resources to at-risk users and their networks. 


    Ubiquitous technologies often come with unrealised responsibilities.  Facebook’s demonstrating they're willing to take on these responsibilities and use their platform for greater social and health benefits.


  • An analytical view of Blockchain aids understanding

    Paradigm shifts are regularly sought after by information and ICT initiatives. As a set of ideas, assumptions, and values that can help to live and see the world, a paradigm doesn’t seem easy to shift. In The Business Blockchain, published by Wiley, William Mougayar describes how Blockchain’s a paradigm shift. 


    It’s part of a sequence of paradigm shifts of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and now Blockchain. He’s firm that Blockchain’s different to all that’s originated before. It’s also tricky to understand, with a clear grasp of its philosophy essential to comprehend its technical components.


    Blockchain has six enablers, programmable: 


    • Assets
    • Trust
    • Ownership
    • Money
    • Identity
    • Contracts.


    Creating ATOMIC, Mougayar delves well into each of these. This delving and diving’s a characteristic of the book. It’s the knowledge and insights that these provide ensure it’s not a superficial overview or description. Examples are the explanation of the set of basic principles and the emphasis on Blockchain’s decentralisation features.


    Wynton Marsalis, the jazz trumpeter said to understand art, you must come to art. Art will not come to you. This resonates with Blockchain. Mougayar’s book’s essential to begin the journey. Africa’s health systems need to follow the tricky route to ensure strategic opportunities are not lost. 


  • A smart watch can detect epilepsy

    Epilepsy is a leading serious neurological condition worldwide.  It has particularly significant physical, economic and social consequences.  Recognising the need for an intervention, Empatica Inc. has developed a smart watch to detect seizures in epileptic patients.  They’re calling it Embrace.


    Embrace uses machine learning algorithms to monitor and detect different seizure types, including grand mal or generalised tonic-clonic seizures. Electrodermal Activity (EDA)* sensors in the watch are used to measure multiple indicators of a seizure. 


    It’s also accompanied by an app that will send an alert, via text message, to a healthcare provider or caregiver once a seizure is detected.  Additionally, the app serves as an electronic seizure diary and health record for the user.


    During a clinical study involving 135 epileptic patients, Embrace’s algorithm was shown to detect 100% of the seizures, including the 40% of silent seizures that were unreported in patient clinical diaries.  Following this, the smart watch has received FDA approval as well as approval in Europe as a medical device for epileptic monitoring.


    Embrace’s high sensitivity is revolutionising seizure reporting.  It serves as a much awaited alternative to wearing an EEG, that is automated, and isn’t bulky or cumbersome to wear.


    *signals used to quantify physiological changes in the sympathetic nervous system 


  • Three mHealth apps help with treatment adherence

    Adherence to medication is an increasing problem in primary health care in Africa. It is important for many things, from birth control to antibiotics to ARTs. When medications are forgotten or skipped, most treatments are no longer as effective.  This becomes both costly for the healthcare system and detrimental to a patient’s health.


    Factors impacting adherence are multifaceted and include social, economic and psychological motives.  A sub-Saharan study in 2017 reported the most common barriers to adherence were;

    • Forgetting

    • Lack of access to adequate food

    • Stigma and discrimination

    • Side-effects of the medication

    • Traveling


    With the uptake of smartphones in Africa, mHealth apps targeting treatment adherence could be a simple solution.  Here are the top 3 downloaded treatment adherence apps on Google Play Store. 


    PatientPartner

    This app turns patient education into an adventure game and shows patients the importance of sticking to a treatment schedule.


    Medisafe

    In addition to medication reminders, this app will notify friends and family if the user defaults. Medisafe also launched a low-tech version that sends reminders through automated phone calls and text messages. 


    MyTherapy

    After logging their medications on the MyTherapy app, users will receive reminders and alerts to take their medications.  Other features on the app include symptom tracking, healthy lifestyle tips and friends and family support groups.


    Improved adherence means a healthier society and ultimately, a reduced burden on healthcare systems.  Moreover, access to adherence data from these apps could help doctors and policy makers make better informed decisions about how to improve the healthcare system.


  • Voice recognition reduces Tanzania's patient waiting times

    Patients at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam no longer have to endure long waiting times for their radiology results.  This is thanks to a new technology installation in the department.  Voice recognition or speech recognition technology is now being used to encode doctors notes on patients so that they can easily be transferred to the radiology department. 


    With this new technology, Tanzanian medical professionals are able to dictate into their computers, in the normal course of speaking and have the speech engine recognise what the clinician wants, and then apply the commands or structured words, respectively, to obtain a radiology report for a patient.  There has been some concern around the effect of speech accents on the technology, but this has posed no problems since implementing it at the hospital.  


    The speech engine is also capable of showing the cardiology report template populated with the name of the patient and other demographic data. By dictating the cardiology report narrative, the computer recognises the narrative context and intent and condenses a complete, correct, and structured document.


    This translates to shorter waiting times for patients, greater operational efficiency within the hospital and reduced workload on medical staff who are required to take notes of patient examinations and consultations.  The technology, which uses natural language processing, is constantly learning speech behaviour through repetitive exposure to terms and complex algorithms that organise speech patterns into recognisable behaviour. 


    This bold technology implementation in Tanzania could be a useful pilot for overburdened health care systems in Africa hoping to achieve the same benefits.


  • Ghana prioritises telemedicine for universal health coverage

    The Novartis Foundation and the Ghana Health Service have announced the successful integration and scale-up of a pilot telemedicine programme started in the Ashanti Region in 2011.  Full national coverage of telemedicine services is expected to be possible by 2019. 


    The telemedicine programme strengthens healthcare capacity by empowering community health workers, while also improving the quality of their care.  Additionally, this avoids unnecessary referrals, thereby reducing transport costs for patients. 


    Community health workers make use of mobile technology to connect to health professionals and specialists via a tele-consultation centre.  Doctors, nurses and midwives in the tele-consultation centres instruct community health workers and advise on the treatment of their patients, particularly in emergency care. 


    The success of the telemedicine model has prompted Ghana Health Service to implement the programme across the nation as part of its national e-health strategy to improve healthcare delivery.  With sustained government leadership, this initiative could transform healthcare for years to come.


  • Kenya introduces an ePharmacy app

    MyDawa is an eHealth platform that allows consumers to purchase medications and other health and wellness products via a mobile application.  The platform was launched to the Kenyan market in March 2017 and has already attracted more than 30 000 registered users. 


    After downloading the app from the Play Store or App Store, registered users can simply search medications they require, upload a medial prescription if necessary, add to their cart and proceed to payment.  Once the order is completed, medications and products purchased will be delivered to the consumer at their convenience. Purchases that require a prescription are verified by a pharmacist before dispensing to the consumer’s mobile cart. 


    The MyDawa solution allows customers to gain the advantage of having increased transparency, convenience and affordability.  Products sold on the MyDawa app are 40% below the market price, and even 3rd party products are sold 20% cheaper than usual.  The app’s popularity in Kenya is driven by rising healthcare costs and value conscious consumers.  Payment on the app is made simple and allows consumers to pay via M-Pesa.


    This a great example in Africa that emphasizes the need for healthcare vendors to continue to embrace disruption in the industry, to become more efficient, to lower costs, increase accessibility to healthcare and provide patient-centric care.