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A Growing New Health Crisis Focusing on Emergency Rooms, Medical History & Vaccines

The writer is Communication Officer at Liberté Living-Lab, Paris France

Samah Ghalloussi, one of the entrepreneurs interviewed for the article with a worker of the French Red Cross. Credit: French Red Cross

PARIS, Apr 19 2021 (IPS) - This year’s World Health Day on 7 April was an opportunity for three entrepreneurs to share their insights and reflections on a rather complex year due to the health crisis and comment on their experiences developing impactful products and services in this sector.

Emeric Lemaire, co-founder of Arkhn, Samah Ghallousi, CEO of AALIA.tech and Antoine Noel, co-founder and director of Japet, are all either associates of Liberté Living-Lab, (a tech for good innovation space hosting a multi-actor collective) or members of Tekhné, a start-up acceleration programme.

The annual World Health Days help to raise public awareness of a wide range of topics, and thus provide an opportunity to highlight three health issues, whether they concern professionals or the general public: medical data management, inclusion in the health sector, or the challenges of back health.

The health crisis has highlighted the problems of accessing and managing data in the health system. Some of the most striking examples of these problems include the poor management of the number of patients attending emergency rooms, limited access to medical history and therefore the risk factors linked to patients, as well as the recent administration of vaccines.

Emeric Lemaire, co-founder of Arkhn, whose mission is to enable more efficient and ethical access to hospital data, shares some lessons learned during this pandemic.

“Even if the past year has been very hard for our society because of the health crisis, there are some positive realizations for the future of the health system. In particular, some governments have taken measures to increase the resilience of hospitals, including investment in research and in their information systems: this is one of the main missions of the Segur (consultation of French healthcare system stakeholders), ” said Emeric.

According to Emeric, proper data management would help to better control the Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, because access to medical information is vital for understanding the Covid-19 virus and the development of treatments/vaccines.

Secondly, this would greatly benefit research, which requires rapid data access in order to recruit patients for clinical trials.

Finally, from an organisational point of view, efficient and accessible data management allows for better monitoring of bed distribution and the construction of efficient propagation models.

Credit: French Red Cross & Aalia tech

Despite the pandemic, Arkhn has grown and is now supporting around ten hospitals. The teams are developing a digital platform that facilitates access to all the data collected in health care institutions.

They are deploying a standard data warehouse in each health care institution which is accessible through a universal interface (an API – Application Programming Interface – using the FHIR standard, an international reference for medical IT). This centralises data from existing software, which is difficult to access at present.

Enabling data access in this way has a number of advantages namely for research purposes (setting up cohorts, conducting clinical research), for improving the capacity of care teams and maximising their efficiency (monitoring patients’ progress, rapidly searching for medical information) and also for promoting the shared access of the data by the hospital’s partners (software publishers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.).

This year’s challenges? “To learn the lessons of this health crisis in order to build a health system more efficient for everyone and better able to respond to such pandemics.”

For Samah Ghallousi, Managing Director of AALIA.tech, there remains a major challenge in health care: inclusion. A real public health problem exists, on which AALIA.tech is working, which involves accessibility through language.

During the pandemic in France, an issue transpired whereby a whole population that did not speak French well enough struggled to understand prevention messages and even access health care.

“There are already often basic communication problems between doctors and patients, which means that some patients do not always understand their treatments and how to take them correctly. When a patient does not speak French or does not speak it well, the problem is even more complex.”

“If we are unable to translate messages into their own language, they will be less likely to manage their health correctly, which could lead to their condition becoming more aggravated or even worsened without the proper care and attention.” said Samah

AALIA.tech has therefore launched its product, currently in beta testing, to help emergency services by offering a voice assistant via an application that translates the health professional’s questions into the patient’s native language.

This technology takes into account the medical and cultural context of the patient, and allows for a fine-tuned understanding by not restricting the doctor to a list of questions, and not limiting them to a pre-established artificial language. The assistant has also been developed into an audio version to also help those who cannot read.

Back problems, common among workers, are even more likely to develop among the large number of home-based workers, who are often poorly equipped at home for extended periods of sitting. According to the medical journal The Lancet, an estimated 540 million people worldwide are affected by lower-back pain.

“The annual cost of back pain is more than €1.4 billion each year for the social security system. It is therefore essential to find solutions for people who suffer chronically from back pain as they represent 80% of the expenses. It is also essential to take preventative action to avoid entering this vicious circle,” said Antoine, co-founder and director of Japet.

One of the main themes of the last World Health Day is the “Mobilisation of all public health actors”, especially those who are not necessarily considered. According to Antoine, the mobilisation of companies is essential, as many risk factors are linked to professional activity.

To combat musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), Japet has designed exoskeletons for the labour market. This “Wearable Medicine” is defined as the combination of medical science and modern robotics.

The start-up markets its exoskeletons in France, Germany, South Korea and Hong Kong, and this year Japet intends to multiply its partnerships in Italy, as well as in several Asian and South American countries.

In addition, in the specific context of the epidemic, Japet is one of the many players who have mobilised. In 2020 they joined the French Red Cross accelerator to promote the integration of new occupational health solutions, and in particular to help staff working on the front line against the pandemic.


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