Digital tools helped Organized Hajj Better amid Coronavirus – Al-Rabiah

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Tawfiq Al-Rabiah highlighted the role of modern technology in dealing with diseases and several health-related issues on Wednesday during a two-day Riyadh Global Digital Health Summit.

Al-Rabiah said during the Saudi presidency of the G20 and even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom accorded a high priority to confront epidemics and develop digital health as its two major health priorities.

Sharing the experience gained during this year’s exceptional Hajj, Al-Rabiah said: “Digital tools, along with the implementation of exceptional health and safety measures, have assisted us successfully navigating one of the largest gatherings in the world under extraordinary circumstances.”

Pilgrims arriving into the holy cities were electronically tagged with bracelets designed to monitor and record their health status and track individuals quarantined upon their return home. And as a result, we have been very fortunate to have Zero cases of COVID19 during Hajj this year, Al-Rabiah said pointed out.

According to the health minister, the emphasis on digital health is critical as it plays a fundamental role in supporting health emergency management by strengthening existing response mechanisms. Digital tools also enable innovative equitable access to health services, data sharing and improved coordination.

“We in the Kingdom have capitalized on many of our existing digital applications that offer AI components in tackling this pandemic,” Al-Rabiah pointed out.

— The central appointment system (Mawid), which is an app that enables patients to book, cancel or reschedule their appointments at primary health care centers, as well as managing their referral appointments. So far more than 51 million appointments have been made using the application, serving over 12 million patients.

— A virtual medical consultation App (Sehha) with an AI component that offers face-to-face interactions with medical professionals, and can be used abroad by Saudi citizens and residents free of cost.

— Drive-through testing centers which can be booked electronically to enable individuals to conduct tests from their vehicles on the day of their choice for their convenience.

— A dedicated App (Tatamman) for individuals in isolation facilities, which provides direct and continuous contact with the patients to provide them with up-to-date health care information as well and ensuring their compliance with health regulations.

— Dedicated apps for health care practitioners to share medical information, and to prescribe medications to patients remotely with no physical interaction, thus minimizing the possibility of infection.

— Virtual clinics and tele-ICUs to provide healthcare practitioners with direct access to patients remotely. This has allowed for seamless communications with residents and nurses to consult virtually.

—Tele-rounds and remote consultations e through robotics, which safeguards healthcare professionals by minimizing physicians to COVID-19 patients contact.

—Tele-radiology to cover COVID-19 designated hospitals.

These initiatives prove that digital health has, and will continue to be the most effective tool in which we can ensure rapid response and delivery of efficient, safe and effective care, Al-Rabiah emphasized.

Thanking the participants and the organizers of the event, the minister said: “The collaborative efforts exerted by all participants are showcased in the success of this momentous event.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health recently announced that the implementation of phase III efficacy trials of a coronavirus vaccine. The trials will be conducted within the framework of the cooperation agreement between the Kingdom and China that includes the implementation of clinical trials.It will target at least 5,000 healthy volunteers who are over the age of 18.

Making the closing remarks at the end of the summit, Dr. Bandar Bin Abdulmohsen Al-Knawy, the CEO at the Ministry of the National Guard and the president of King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, highlighted the steps taken by the Kingdom in the wake of the pandemic and the successful organization of the annual Hajj pilgrimage amid the health crisis.

He said: said: “We should strive to decrease inequities and embrace digital inclusion. Digital health should enable and empower people, as well as healthcare systems, to prevent and treat communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

Dr. Al-Knawy outlined recommendations to further the integration of digital health into healthcare systems to treat disease.

“The declaration is a call to action…to share digital health evidence-based practices and high-quality data… to enable more health systems and countries to have actionable insights,” Dr. Al-Knawy added.

The summit, which was organized by health affairs of the Ministry of National Guard and the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships in cooperation with the Saudi Secretariat of the G20, sought to highlight the role of digital health to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system.

The summit brought global leaders in healthcare together from across the world to discuss how digital health technology could aid in the fight against coronavirus.
Saudi Gazette report

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