Category: International

Can smartphones save us from coronavirus?

published date
January 29th, 2020 by
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Happy Chinese New Year!

A friend came home from a business trip to China on Friday. His kids (teens and tweens) were ready to hug and kiss him when he returned –as they usually do-, but when they heard his cough they fled to their rooms, slammed the doors and donned surgical masks.

Did dad bring the coronavirus home with him? Except for his wife, no one in his family was taking that chance.

Which got me thinking, what’s changed since the last epidemics of  Ebola, avian flu and SARS…?

For one thing, cell phones and the Internet have become ubiquitous. Bad news travels fast, and there’s no keeping the kids in the dark.

On the other hand, maybe smartphones can help keep us safe. For example, I’m impressed by ResApp, an Australian company that helps doctors diagnose respiratory illnesses by analyzing the data in coughs. Is it asthma, COPD, pneumonia, or nothing serious? ResApp uses the smartphone to figure it out. (Here’s my interview with the company from 2016.)

The tool is designed to be used by healthcare professionals (probably to keep regulators from getting nervous about self-diagnosis) but it seems to me that patients could use the app themselves and just send the data over the web for confirmation, avoiding the possibility of infecting healthcare workers and other patients.

Kids are about to go back to school in Australia after summer vacation/fire season (remember they’re on the upside down part of the world), and everyone’s nervous that coronavirus will show up in the classroom.

I asked ResApp CEO Tony Keating CEO for his opinion. He said

The identification and isolation of patients with viruses such as this novel coronavirus is a critical public health step. Like SARS and MERS, 2019-nCoV causes pneumonia – an infection of one or both lungs, causing cough, difficulty breathing and/or fever. People with these symptoms can be identified (in places like airports), isolated, and sent for further molecular testing. However this screening is difficult, as not all patients with the virus may have a fever at the time and infrared thermometers are not 100% accurate. These symptoms are also indistinguishable from the usual winter illnesses such as influenza. New screening tests which are rapid, accurate and portable could improve screening, and potentially reduce the global spread of these viruses.

Sounds promising to me. Let’s hope these new solutions can come online soon.

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

#CareTalk August 2019: Reimportation scares Canada

published date
August 28th, 2019 by

 

In this edition of #CareTalk, CareCentrix CEO John Driscoll and I have a little fun at the expense of our neighbors to the North. Will Canada build a wall along its Southern border to keep out US patients?

Overview:

(0:43) Are Canadians right to worry that Americans are going to clean out their pharmacies, leaving nothing for the locals?

(1:43) What are “authorized generics” and are they a good idea?

(3:22) Are skilled nursing facilities a piggybank for accountable care organizations?

(5:05) Should everyone be screened for drug use?

(6:40) A Montana man was stuck with a $500,000 dialysis bill. Would you have paid it?

(7:16) What should happen to the person who manipulated the Novartis gene therapy data?

(7:39) Is Tom Brady too old to play in the NFL?

The United Provinces of Canada (at least on healthcare)

published date
July 1st, 2019 by
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Happy and Healthy?

Happy Canada Day!

We usually think of Canada as a divided nation, with the province of Quebec perennially at odds with the rest of the county and threatening to secede. I was in Montreal over the weekend and it’s fair to say there wasn’t much evidence of enthusiasm for the upcoming Canada Day (the rough equivalent of our 4th of July).

And yet, at least when it comes to healthcare policy, Quebec is very much at peace with the rest of the country.  From the Montreal Gazette (Quebecers united with Canadians on health, divided on language, hockey):

When it comes to stoking national pride, Canadians and Quebecers are united in their appreciation for universal health care and the Canadian passport. They also see eye-to-eye on the importance of the monarchy, Air Canada and Tim Hortons as national symbols, in that they don’t find them particularly important.

A national survey asked the question, “How important are each of the following as a source of personal or collective pride in Canada?”

Universal healthcare scored highest. Seventy three percent of Canadians and 70 percent of those from Quebec ranked it as very important. Anglophones and Francophones responded the same way.

We usually think of the United States of America, but when it comes to healthcare that is certainly not the case. If anything, Americans might be united against the idea of a Canadian-style system.

Kind of odd, then that the people living under that regime are so proud of it.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

The small world of adult male circumcision

published date
March 14th, 2018 by

I was riding in an Uber the other night in Denver and got to talking with the driver. He said he’s from Kenya. I told him I never visited Kenya but was almost there about 10 years ago, but the conference I was attending got moved to Uganda due to post-election violence in his country.

When I explained that I had been there with the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research (now Forum for Collaborative Research) and Gates Foundation to talk about analyzing the demand for adult male circumcision to prevent HIV transmission, he told me he’d actually been circumcised under that program, which he called a very successful one.

Historically the Luo –of which he is a member– did not practice circumcision, but that changed as a result of a major public health campaign. Documentation of the campaign always stresses the voluntary nature of the program, because circumcision is sometimes coerced.

We arrived at our destination before I had the chance to tell the driver about checking into the hotel that Colonel Qadaffi had just checked out of.

Maybe next time.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.