Ameera Hamid

eLearning Specialist and Disruptive Innovator in eHealth

  • How can bad robots be kept out?

    Automation’s steadily progressing across healthcare. It relies on AI and robotics, but not all robots are up to the job. Keeping bad bots at bay’s vital. An eBook from Quocirca sets out a way to do it, leaving the way clear for good bots to help in a range of services. Examples are admin bots that can make appointments, help to access clinical records, answer billing queries and process payments. Chat bots can deal with routine ailments, freeing healthcare professionals to deal with more complex patients. AI’s the driver behind these changes.

    Four types of bad bot activity’s:

    • Stealing personal information
    • Credit care fraud
    • Healthcare insurance fraud
    • Bribery and extortion. 

    The OWASP Foundation, a global not-for-profit charitable organisation aiming to improve security of software, runs the Open Web Application Security Project that combats bad bots. Its Automated Threat Handbook lists criminals’ 20 most common activities that use bots. It also publishes its Top 10

    Most Critical Web Application Security Risks, the latest for 2017 are:

    • Injection
    • Broken authentication
    • Sensitive data exposure
    • XML external entities (XXE)
    • Broken access control
    • Security misconfiguration
    • Missing function level access control
    • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
    • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
    • Insecure Deserialisation
    • Using components with known vulnerabilities
    • Insufficient logging and monitoring. 

    Developers can introduce these vulnerabilities in their software code, making it easy for bots to find, then mimic human behaviour to achieve illicit access. Three traditional ways to mitigate their threat and enable good bots to succeed are: 

    • Firewall rules can be changed to block source IP addresses used by cyber-criminals’ bots, but they regularly change IP addresses, can’t deal with previously unknown bots and may block legitimate users
    • Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) protect web applications by exploiting common software vulnerabilities, but apart from vulnerability scanners, most bad bots don’t target vulnerabilities, they mimic real users, so WAFs can’t stop them
    • Completely Automated Public Turing tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA), are-you-human tests can work can, annoy some users, but some bad bots can bypass them
    • Geofencing can limit access to websites and apps to users from specified locations, but cyber-criminals can move their location using VPN links to a local Point of Presence (PoP)
    • Direct Bot Detection (DBB) tools and mitigation can distinguish bots from humans and classify them in real time using behavioural analysis and digital fingerprinting, and across several organisations, can improve their understanding of bad-bots through machine learning, identifying bots, determining their provenance and deciding if their activity should be allowed, controlled or blocked. 

    Quocirca says all 20 of the bot types identified by OWASP can be managed using DBB and unwanted activity curtailed. DBB tools aren’t an alternative to the other measures. They can be integrated with other network protection technologies such as WAFs, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM). 

    Adopting the increasing range of cyber-security measures is essential for Africa’s eHealth. Keeping up with trends is too, and links with OWASP can help. Individual membership’s US$50 a year, US$95 for two years and US$500 for lifetime. Corporate membership starts at US$5,000.

  • Machine learning use cases for health points to the future

    Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) have quickly rocketed to the top of the industry’s buzzword list, driven partly by heightened interest in big data analytics amongst healthcare providers and vendors

    The allure of intelligent algorithms to mine masses of structured and unstructured data for innovative insights get’s health planners pretty excited. However, a fragmented health ICT landscape and sluggish analytics development have thus far kept that Holy Grail beyond reach.

    Regardless, ML is already making a difference.  Here are some examples;

    Imaging analytics and pathology

    ML can supplement the skills of human radiologists by identifying subtler changes in imaging scans more quickly and potentially leading to earlier and more accurate diagnoses.  At Stanford University, ML tools performed better than human pathologists when distinguishing between two types of lung cancer.  The computer also bested its human counterparts at predicting patient survival times.

    Natural language processing and free text data

    Using natural language processing (NLP), ML algorithms can turn images of text into editable documents, extract semantic meaning from those documents, or process search queries written in plain text to return accurate results.  Anne Arundel Medical Center is using a natural language interface, similar to any of the widely known internet search engines, to allow users to access data and receive trustworthy results.

    Clinical decision support and predictive analytics

    Identifying and addressing risks quickly can significantly improve outcomes for patients with any number of serious conditions, both clinical and behavioral. The University of California San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) and GE Healthcare are creating a library of predictive analytics algorithms for trauma patients in an attempt to speed up the delivery of critical care.

    Cybersecurity and ransomware

    At the end of 2016, IBM Watson launched its Cyber Security Program.  Watson’s ML and cognitive computing skills are used to flag cyber threats and check for suspicious activity against known malware or cyber crime campaigns.  This helps IT staff take better decisions based on known characteristics of malware.

    ML and AI are the keys to addressing health care inadequacies.  These technologies can help predict and control disease, expand and augment service delivery, and address several persistent social inequities. Ubiquitous health tech is by no means inevitable.  Successful rollout will entail an immense amount of concerted effort, capital, labor, and partnership.

  • Three ways gamification helps people stay healthy

    If you measure your daily step count or chase after Pokemons, you’ve already succumbed to the charms of gamification and its habit-creating powers. Expect to see more. Gamified apps, devices, and therapies will appear in every field of healthcare, making behaviour change easier and more fun.

    Game play focuses and controls our attention, helping us tap into our innate strengths.  It compels us attain more powerful and effective skills. That’s why many believe it is perfect for behavior change that’s good for our health.

    A game is more than automated collection of vital signs and notifications. Gamified services engage us, keep us motivated and help us achieve change. It’s the combination of a great friend and a considerate parent. That’s why gamified solutions will spread like silent epidemics for better health. 

    Here are three ways gamified solutions are already helping large numbers of people stay healthy:

    • Physical Fitness - Fitbit has been one of the most popular gamified devices in helping people attain their physical fitness and wellness goals.  Users may set up challenges on the Fitbit community interface and compete with one another to motivate better gym performance and step counts.  Medical aid schemes, such as  Discovery, further encourage fitness and wellness by providing points for step counts.  These points accrue to rewards and savings on selective lifestyle purchases for achieving members.
    • Medication and chronic disease management - Mango Health developed a smartphone application designed to motivate patients to take their medications on time. Users set the times when medications should be taken, and the app reminds them. It also provides information about the medications and warns about drug interactions and side effects. By taking the medications properly, users earn points towards gift cards or charitable donations in raffles held weekly.

    • Physical therapy and rehabilitation - GestureTek Health is a Canadian company that develops applications specific to health, disability, and rehabilitation. Its virtual reality exercise programs enable patients to have fun while stretching their physical and cognitive capabilities. MindMaze created devices, which use virtual reality, brain imaging and gaming technologies to retrain the brain in stroke victims. It also works on solutions for spinal cord injury and amputee patients.
    If you’re making healthy choices without thinking about it, and an App is helping to make those choices easier and more fun, you’re already doing it.  Us Africans want health to be fun and look forward to seeing much more gamification in the African health innovation landscape soon. 

  • 3D printing lends a hand to prostheses

    3D printing first appeared in the late 1980s, initially for use in industrial prototyping and manufacturing processes. With recent advances, the technology is being applied across many industries, including health, where it is reducing the cost and production time of a range of body parts, from hips to hearts.

    Now, a team of engineering students from the University of Witwatersrand have made a prosthetic hand prototype that will cost around R2,000 (about US$140). They hope that it will make this type of prosthesis more accessible to South Africans who find conventional prosthetic limbs, which can cost more than 50 times the prototype’s price, unaffordable.

    Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed, a lecturer and PhD candidate in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Wits said, “We’re trying to create a hand that’s relatively cheap but has sufficient functionality that allows users to do basic daily movements”.   

    Development is iterative. Last year the group perfected a tripod pinch, the grip used to hold a pen. Next, bicep and triceps were hooked up to the hand and as the person moves the muscles, the hand closes or opens. Sensors were then added to the fingertips to enable the hand to sense force. This year the group has focused on integrating the sensors with vibrational feedback to provide an indication of how strong the hand’s grasp is.

    This promising work expands the range of 3D printing applications. It also brings many patients a big step closer to having a functional prosthesis. What will be 3D printed next?

  • Drones and mHealth help to combat global diseases

    As drones expand their role in healthcare, they’re starting to help in dealing with global diseases. Their impact’s combined with the mobiles’ role. An article from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine describes some of the initiatives and benefits.

    Drones can be seen as a subset of robots. They’re being used in Malaysian Borneo to map deforestation after a surge in human cases of ‘monkey malaria’, a strain of the disease caused by the parasite Plasmodium knowlesi that normally only affects macaques.  It’s commonly misdiagnosed as P. malariae, a mild form of malaria because it looks similar under the microscope. The monkey form is severe in humans and has a high fatality rate.

    Research has found that people in villages with significant deforestation around them are more likely to be infected with P. knowlesi. To measure changes, drones with cameras picture and map changing forest landscapes. They track monkeys’ movements through GPS collars placed on the animals to identify how they moving in response to deforestation, and especially if they approaching houses and settlements.

    The next step’s to develop risk maps to find places and people that are more likely to have P. knowlesi. Forecasts and prediction of the disease will inform malaria control programmes.

    In Cambodia, basic mobile phones help women stay free of STIs and use effective contraception after abortions. MObile Technology for Improved Family Planning (MOTIF) has found that sending voice messages reminding women about the importance of continuing with contraception after abortions and offering telephone counselling helped maintain compliance. As mobile phone technology has developed since the trial, the project uses instant messaging, such as WhatsApp, so users can respond at times convenient to them. It’s expected to improve effectiveness.

    Africa’s developing mHealth programmes can expect equivalent benefits for patients, communities and their health systems. It’d be valuable to share and learn from their experiences with each other.

  • Acfee internship applications open today

    At Acfee, the interns in the first cohort complete their year of service in December. They've set the bar high for those who follow in 2018, engaging actively in Acfee initiatives and becoming advocates for eHealth in transforming health systems.

    The Acfee Internship Programme offers enthusiastic graduates the opportunity to develop themselves professionally through practical experience in Acfee's work. These activities stretch across various areas such as its four main pillars: healthier Africans, building eHealth knowledge bases, strengthening and securing good eHealth and improving health outcomes.

    Internships are offered depending on the needs and capacity of the Acfee team to receive and supervise interns

    Today, Acfee begins accepting internship applications for 2018. Four places are available. Interns will be part of Acfee’s operational team, working closely with eHealth experts and supporting Acfee’s work in developing eHealth leadership and capacity for Africa. They will also contribute to posts for eHealth News Africa (eHNA), Acfee’s daily blog and even collaborate on publications.

    Do you have what it takes to be part of this dynamic team? Enquire and send your CV and a one-page motivation to

  • Acfee recognises eHealth leadership with six awards at eHealthAFRO 2017

    Effective eHealth leadership’s vital for success. Acfee attaches considerable importance to its role and development. At eHealthAFRO yesterday, it handed out six eHealth leadership awards. They’re for outstanding eHealth leadership in:

    1. A clinical setting, Dr Rolene Wagner, CEO Frere Hospital, Eastern Cape, South Africa, for her imaginative use of information to improve hospital services           
    2. An eHealth strategy setting, Mr Onesmus Kamau, Head of eHealth Department, Kenya Ministry of Health for his role in Kenya’s mHealth standards strategy
    3. An NGO, Ms Petro Russeau, HIV Technical Advisor, South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) for her imaginative use of information in South Africa's HIV, TB and STI response

    4. The private sector, Dr William Mapham, ophthalmologist, creator of Vula for transforming hospital referrals
    5. A national government setting, Mr Mbulelo Cabuko, Director of Health Information at South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDOH) for his contribution to eHealth 
    6. A regional setting, Mr Daniel Morenzi, eHealth Lead, East African Community (EAC) for his contribution to a eHealth development.


    Dr Sean Broomhead, Acfee CEO, and Prof Peter Nyasulu and Dr Ousamne Ly, both Acfee directors, presented the awards after eHealthAFRO’s Tuesday programme. They’re well-deserved and confirm the recipients’ status as eHealth leadership role models.

  • Participants shape Africa’s eHealth opportunities at eHA2017’s use-case bazaar

    I have been inundated with questions about the eHA2017 use-case bazaar since I wrote about it two weeks ago. It’s one of the big attractions at this year’s conference. Participants get to talk about their solutions and test their ideas with the eHealth community.

    So, how does it work?

    The conference starts in plenary, banquet style, eight people per table. Your table is your team for the conference. You will explore eHealth’s breadth and depth together for two and half days, extract lessons from everything you hear and refine them into action items for yourself and your team, and recommendations for African ministries of health.

    Tuesday, after lunch, table-teams will journey through a selection of use-case presentations in one of three themed rooms, spending up to half an hour at each use-case station in the room. Presenters will invite comments and suggestions to take their ideas to the next level. This is no passive show-and-tell session. It’s an interactive forum in which participants will shape Africa’s eHealth opportunities together.  Wednesday afternoon is a repeat with a new set of use-cases.

    So, what can you explore?

    There are two emerging themes for the use-case bazaar; “eHealth apps, devices and mHealth initiatives at point of care and in people’s hands” and “eHealth systems, infrastructure and interoperability”.  Each of the three rooms will have a blend of these themes. Presenters include CSIR, Jembi, HISP, CIDER, SANAC, Mobenzi, Vula, TOPMSA, Praekelt, MomConnect, HST, University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology and more. Explore them on the eHA2017 website programme page.

    Participants are encouraged to explore use-cases that will benefit their eHealth journey, while use-cases have the opportunity to analyse their ideas and solutions through focused-group discussions with participants.

    eHA2017’s changed the conference game!

    Get your tickets here.

  • Is machine learning the new buzzword for healthcare?

    By now, it’s old news that big data will transform healthcare. Electronic health records and health information systems have arrived, data flows, and there’s a lot of it. However, all this data, is only useful when it has been analyzed, interpreted and acted on. So will it be algorithms that perform this analysis that will really transform healthcare?

    Access to lab results via a mobile app, has helped clinicians diagnose and treat patients faster. Imagine how much more useful these results would be if they also showed the patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease or renal failure, based on the last several years of the patient’s lab reports. This is where machine learning might help physicians to make better decisions at point of patient care.

    Machine learning is an area of artificial intelligence (AI) that is starting to attract interest in healthcare. It is a set of algorithms that help a system to automatically learn and predict outcomes, after continuous exposure to variable datasets. The value of machine learning in healthcare is its ability to process huge amounts of clinical information, beyond that of human capability, and then reliably convert analysis of that data into clinical insights. This will help physicians plan better and ultimately lead to better outcomes, lower costs of care and increased patient satisfaction.

    Machine learning is already making headlines in healthcare. Google has developed a machine learning algorithm to help identify cancerous tumors on mammograms. Stanford is using a machine learning algorithm to identify skin cancer. A JAMA article, last year, reported the results of a deep machine-learning algorithm that was able to diagnose diabetic retinopathy in retinal images. Others, like Philips, are transforming TB screening, using machine learning algorithms that can offer an objective opinion to improve efficiency, reliability, and accuracy.

    Machine learning puts a new arrow in the quiver of clinical decision-making.

  • Discover Africa’s plethora of eHealth opportunities at eHealthAFRO 2017 Use-case Bazaar

    Industry stakeholders are realising the opportunity for eHealth to help expand access to healthcare resources, improve patient outcomes, and increase efficiency of healthcare services. The eHealth space in Africa is experiencing an explosion of new ideas and technologies, which the eHealthAFRO 2017 conference will showcase. It takes place at Emperors Palace from 2-4 October 2017.

    Afternoon use-case bazaars on Tuesday and Wednesday will allow conference participants to explore 48 new ideas and technologies. These sessions will feature compelling eHealth solutions and implementations. The use-case bazaar themes extend from the conference theme: eHealth for Universal Health Care (eH4UHC) and includes mobile apps and devices, eHealth systems and architecture, and eHealth use-cases demonstrating on-the-ground successes.

    Participating organizations include HISP-SA, UCT's CIDER, Jembi Health Systems, SANAC's Focus for Impact project, the AitaHealth assisted community outreach project, HPCSA’s new eLogbook for interns and many more.

    See the expanding list on the eHealthAFRO website. Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with industry leaders, share your ideas and keep abreast of eHealth developments in Southern Africa.

    If you or your organization have an interesting eHealth solution or project, let it be shown where Africa meets for eHealth. There are still a few open slots for organizations that would like the opportunity to showcase their eHealth idea or technology. For more on this opportunity, contact the eHealthAFRO organizing committee here.