At-Risk Groups Will Soon be Able to Self-Screen for COVID-19

This is such good news. I am sharing with you all, because it cannot come soon enough. Telemedicine has been talked about for long enough in Jamaica – now at last here is the opportunity provided by this pandemic to protect vulnerable groups – who should not be leaving home, and who don’t wish to do so. 

As indicated in an earlier article and interview I posted here about IDB Lab’s search for creative tourism projects, innovation and “thinking outside the box” is more critical than ever. It cannot be more of the same, in these COVID times. Please find details below from IDB.


At-Risk Groups Can Soon Self-Screen for COVID-19

Kingston, Jamaica. Monday, July 20. Vulnerable groups such as those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly will soon be able to self-screen for COVID-19.

A technical cooperation agreement between MDLink–a telemedicine platform and IDB Lab is paving the way to make this happen. The initiative is to design and test a digital screening solution for COVID-19 on the MDLink telemedicine platform. The solution is expected to come on stream within a few months.

Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Jamaica Country Representative and General Manager for the Caribbean Country Group says COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of telemedicine as health professionals find innovative ways to deliver needed services whilst observing the necessary health protocols. This platform is specially needed to help protect vulnerable groups as it allows patients to connect virtually and safely with locally registered doctors, without having to leave their homes over a secure platform.

“Patients will be able to get expert guidance about whether they need to be seen or tested for COVID-19, instead of showing up unannounced at the emergency room or doctor’s office. Some 5,000 persons with pre-existing health conditions and persons over 60 years will be directly impacted by the project. It will also take the pressure off the public health system and allow the health centers, hospitals including accident and emergency departments to deal with more critical cases, including those related to COVID -19,” stated Turner-Jones.

Photograph of Ms. Therese Turner-Jones
Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Jamaica Country Representative and General Manager for the Caribbean Country Group

COVID- 19 is a major concern for Jamaica as elderly persons, and those with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious symptoms should they contract the virus. Jamaica’s 2015 census reported that 12.6% of the population are 60 years and over.

Over the last ten years the top three leading causes of death in Jamaica are stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

The rate of medical doctors and nurses to provide adequate coverage with primary care interventions in Jamaica is reportedly below the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 2.5 medical staff per 1,000 people. On average, the country has 0.5 medical doctors and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people.

With the recent opening of the country’s borders to tourists and the anticipated spike in new cases, Turner-Jones opined that the self- screening platform could potentially benefit the local health system as it grapples with the challenges of COVID-19 and speedily getting testing done.

MDLink is an innovative online telehealth company that allows patients to be diagnosed and treated online via its website and app. The company, which is three years old, is the first of its kind in the region. Its mission is to increase access to affordable healthcare throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. So far it has helped over 10,000 patients. 200 doctors and 30,000 patients are registered on the platform.

PHOTO-2020-07-07-17-13-13 Che Bowen
Che Bowen, Jamaican telemedicine innovator, MDLink.

Che Bowen, President and CEO of MDLink in explaining how the platform works says: “We will enhance our existing platform with a telehealth COVID-19 solution integrating the use of artificial intelligence), and tele-triage with monitored referrals. The platform will categorize various messages related to the screening results and the actions required by the patient. This will be sent to each patient once they complete the test. Patients’ data is securely stored using international encryption standards. Additionally, our client base of 30,000 who are already registered on our MDLink platform will also have access to the self-screening facility if needed. The best thing about the tool is that it is free to use.”

Terry-Ann Segree, IDB Lab Private Finance Operations Senior Specialist said: “MDLink along with eight other Jamaican innovators responded to the IDB Lab’s call for prototypes to tackle the COVID-19 challenges being experienced in the region. Their proposal demonstrated that start-ups are willing to take the risk to adapt their products and services based on market problems, thereby creating market-driven solutions. This is a good indicator of much more innovation to come.”

About IDB Lab

IDB Lab mobilizes financing, knowledge, and connections to catalyse innovation for inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean. It supports innovative projects and early stage ventureswith a potential to generate impact on a large scale. It also promotes innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. The Lab systematizes and disseminates knowledge to connect ideas and scale their impact.

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