*'Digital health system is going to help us in managing any future pandemics'
Qatar has taken several steps to develop a digital health ecosystem which holds the key for future of healthcare, especially in a pandemic situation such as Covid-19, noted a researcher at a webinar recently.
“In Qatar, digital health is one of the key pillars that the health system is working on. It is in very early stages but it has been identified as one of the key drivers,” said Dr Faisal Farooq, principal scientist, Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI).
Dr Farooq, who leads the digital health group within QCRI was speaking at a webinar organised by Qatar Centre for Artificial Intelligence (QCAI), part of QCRI on “Managing Health Services during a Pandemic’.
In his presentation, he highlighted the advantages of digital health in managing the pandemics such as Covid-19 effectively. Dr Sanjay Chawla, research director, QCAI, moderated the session.
“Digital health has been on the radar for some time but it has not been properly taken care of by the healthcare systems. Most healthcare systems had not been able to incorporate the digital health system seamlessly within the public health system. However, Covid-19 has shown us that digital health system is a real necessity within our healthcare systems. This is what is going to help us in managing any future pandemics and scenarios like this,” he explained.
The scientist detailed that a pandemic situation such as Covid-19 demands four steps. “A crisis management for a Covid-19 like pandemic needs four steps. They are preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Preparedness is what is needed before a pandemic hits and the response is a reactive situation that deals with the situation as it happens. Recovery is the process of returning to new normal while migration is the forward looking strategy,” he described
According to Dr Farooq, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science technologies can be the key elements in implementing these steps. “Using AI and Data Science different models can be developed to face any pandemic situation and overcome them successfully. However, these are not the alternative for preparedness. Unfortunately, many governments were not prepared to face a situation such as Covid-19,” he noted.
“Qatar is making use of some of these techniques in dealing with the current situation. Accordingly, the country is adopting certain policies in fighting the epidemic. This is clear from the statistics as Qatar’s mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world while the people in critical situation or admitted in the intensive care are also very low. This helps the country to adopt a capacity based treatment approach,” he continued.
He also maintained that the current Covid-19 situation has resulted in a great increase in telemedicine consultations all over the world.
“There is a 40% increase in the in telemedicine consultations during this period. This has reduced visits to the hospitals and helped in containing the pandemic to a certain extent. It also has helped in continuing the non-Covid healthcare for the community,” added the official.