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News

Artificial intelligence unmasks Covid-19 hotspots

With Covid-19 cases rapidly spreading across the country‚ South Africans have been hearing a lot about hotspots‚ clusters and targeted testing lately.

A home-grown cloud-enabled screening and communication app has been helping community health care workers in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal mark hotspots seamlessly by recording live community screening in real time.

The Vantage community screening app‚ which is used by a social impact company‚ BroadReach‚ in partnership with the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal governments‚ not only allows screening teams to capture data while in the field but‚ through artificial intelligence it also triggers contact tracing and hospital managers to prepare their facility for potential Covid-19 patients.

“The rapid spread of Covid-19 requires an urgent‚ co-ordinated approach to balance rising patient need for care and hospitals’ capacity to deliver it. Understanding both patient demand and facility supply … from community screening‚ testing and contact tracing to hospital and clinic readiness is essential for leaders to direct action‚ distribute resources and save lives‚” said Dr Ernest Darkoh‚ BroadReach co-founder and public health expert.

Darkoh was one of the panellists that presented innovative real-time tech solutions at the World Health Organisation innovation spotlight webinar on Wednesday‚ which showcased tech solutions for the Covid-19 response in Africa.

The app is part of a wider ecosystem of the Vantage cloud platform — an award-winning data analytics and population management platform that helps leaders drive efficiency and effectiveness into health systems. The platform has been instrumental in KwaZulu-Natal‚ being the first health district to reach the UN 90-90-90 targets towards HIV control. In Africa it has helped distribute malaria medication to 21 million children.

The screening app is uploaded onto smartphones and community health care workers go door-to-door as they screen the community.

“They input all their standard department of health screening questions and answers simply on the app. This saves time from paper-based systems. It also means that the data they add at each household is geolocated and uploaded instantly into the cloud. This information that is entered by thousands of other health care workers is uploaded‚ collated‚ analysed and used in real-time on the Vantage platform‚” said Darkoh.

About 60‚000 screenings are uploaded on the app daily — information which health managers can use to identify clusters and hotspots. To date over 1 million screenings have been done using the app.

“Crucially the platform gives leaders real-time decision support so they can plan and prioritise resource allocation and action. The platform also sends leaders daily e-mail alerts giving them the most crucial information and action recommendations to support their timely action‚” said Darkoh.

Using the app health care workers also record ‘presumptive’ cases such as people they suspect have contracted the virus. “They take test samples from people and send these to the lab for testing and they refer people who are unwell to nearby hospitals. These activities are all tracked on the app. Contact tracing can also be initiated via the app.”

Source: ARENA Holdings.