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Virtual Doctor: An Emirati initiative inspired by the COVID-19 crisis

5 minute read
To strengthen telehealth services amid the COVID-19 crisis, the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention has launched the Virtual Doctor service to assess cases potentially infected with COVID-19, as part of the country's efforts to contain the virus.
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The novel coronavirus, which plagued the world a few months ago, has burdened governments and sectors, notably healthcare, since the start of the outbreak. As COVID-19 engulfed the nations, health systems were collapsing and medical staff was at risk of contracting COVID-19, as a result of their continuous interaction with infected cases. Therefore, the infected medical personnel will not only increase the number of infected people, but they will also increase the burden on the health system due to low efficiency and ability to treat and care for patients.

As part of the initiatives addressing this global pandemic, the concept of telehealth services had emerged as an effective and sustainable solution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Telehealth services are particularly important during this time because they can bridge the gap between individuals, physicians, and health systems. Moreover, they allow people, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with doctors through virtual communication channels. Consequently, the virus will stop spreading among large numbers of individuals and medical staff.

To enhance the capabilities of telehealth services during the COVID-19 crisis, the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention has launched the Virtual Doctor. This service aims at assessing cases potentially infected with the coronavirus, as part of the country's efforts to contain the virus. At the same time, this service alleviates the burden placed on health systems and services in various parts of the country. The Virtual Doctor is simple and easy to use. Five multiple-choice questions are asked to determine the user's travel history, symptoms, and whether they have been in contact with infected persons.

"Salam Alaikum, I'm here to guide you through the Coronavirus Assessment Tool. If you are experiencing a life or limb-threatening emergency, call [998]. I'm not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a medical professional for serious symptoms or emergencies," the service tells users.

The foremost question posed is if a person has traveled to any of these countries, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Spain, France, Germany, the US, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Belgium, Austria, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

The second question tackles the issue of having contact with someone who traveled to or passed through any of these countries and is currently experiencing any symptoms. The Virtual Doctor will then ask the users if they had been exposed to an infected person who started showing any symptoms, such as fever, cough, runny nose, dry throat, or shortness of breath.

The tool provides two different responses, depending on the user's answers. It may display the following: "We would like to talk with you as soon as possible. Please call 998,” or "Dear patient, you have a low risk for COVID-19. If you need further information please call the following number: 800-FLU [358]."

Source: 2 1

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