As we highlighted in a previous blog post, telehealth/telemedicine services have come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing patients to connect with their clinicians in a way that’s fast, convenient and safe. However, remote consultations often have their limitations, including how to perform diagnostic tests and take medical measurements. But now researchers from the University of Washington have devised a way to measure patients' pulse and breathing rates via a smartphone's camera. The researchers say the advancement will make telehealth more accurate and useful. According to UW News, the system, called MetaPhys, can detect a patient’s pulse or respiration rate using in real-time using video of their face. "Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it," Xin Liu, the study's lead author and a student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering doctoral student, told UW News. "But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time." The team's original iteration of MetaPhys was presented last December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. However, the first iteration had some pitfalls, most notably that it struggled with certain lights, backgrounds and skin colors. The second version, the researchers say, improves upon the first and overcomes these limitations. *Image courtesy of tookapic from Pixabay
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, telehealth/telemedicine services were more of a convenience than a necessity for most patients. They offered (and still do offer) a way for a patient to consult with their clinician without having to make a trip to the doctor’s office. But it was when the Covid-19 pandemic struck that telehealth really came into its own, with more patients than ever taking advantage of such services to receive non-emergency healthcare from the safety of their own homes. Now, new research from Sykes reveals that most consumers – having experienced telehealth services during the pandemic -- want them to remain post-Covid. According to the Sykes survey, which polled 2,000 Americans in March on how their opinions on virtual care have changed within the past year, more than 61% had undergone a telehealth visit come March this year. In comparison, less than 20% had utilized telehealth by March 2020. Furthermore, in March 2020, around 65% of Americans felt hesitant or doubtful about the quality of telehealth services, while 56% did not believe they could afford the same level of care compared to in-person appointments. However, now, almost 88% want to continue using telehealth for non-urgent consultations after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. Moreover, almost 80% agree it's possible to receive quality care via telehealth services. *Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
French schools have closed for at least three weeks under a third national lockdown to fight rising Covid-19 cases. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that schools would switch to remote learning from the beginning of this week. Other lockdown measures, introduced in some parts of France earlier this month, including Paris, have also been extended to other areas. From last Saturday, all non-essential shops closed and there is now a ban on travelling more than 10km (6 miles) from home without good reason. Last Wednesday, the country's health ministry reported 59,038 new cases. France has so far reported more than 4.6 million cases of coronavirus and 95,495 Covid-related deaths. In a live televised address, Mr Macron described the situation in France as "delicate". He added that April would be a “crucial” month in the battle against Covid-19. "We will lose control if we do not move now," he said. Mr Macron outlined that the race to vaccinate would continue alongside attempting to control the spread of the virus. He said that while schools would be closing from this week, classes would remain open for the children of key workers. Image: French President Emmanuel Macron, courtesy of Foundations World Economic Forum, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Telehealth services have really come into their own during the coronavirus pandemic, offering a way for patients and clinicians to have consultations without the need for a face-to-face meeting. Now, a group of inventors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) want to take telehealth consultations to another level by facilitating them to be performed via drone. The technology aims to fill the gap in telehealth delivery among those who do not own or have access to the devices, such as smartphones, computers and internet connectivity, that are required for telehealth consultations. Inventors Victoria Wangia-Anderson, Manish Kumar, Seung-Yeon Lee and Debi Sampsel from three colleges at UC collaborated to develop a semi-autonomous prototype that can be dispatched right to people’s homes. The drones are capable of carrying certain medical equipment and supplies, but remain agile enough to navigate the tight spaces found in homes. A variety of health assessments can be conducted using the telehealth drones, including taking temperatures and measuring oxygen levels. The drone kits also include patient-friendly devices, and the clinician will be able to instruct patients on how to use them. Patients who require assistance can also seek help from family or other caregivers during the drone sessions. Speaking about the telehealth drones, Debi Sampsel, director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, said: “We can perform all kinds of functions: chronic disease management, post-operative care monitoring, health coaching and consultations,” she said. “And in the health care arena, there is no age limit. Telehealth services are useful from birth to death.” Find out more via the University of Cincinnati website. *Image courtesy of Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand for the University of Cincinnati
In an effort to ramp up its vaccination drive, France has confirmed it will open at least 35 giant ‘megacentre vaccinodromes’ across the country by April. Health Minister Olivier Véran this week confirmed: “The health service and the army will work to develop a certain number of giant vaccination centres - we might call them ‘vaccinodromes’ or ‘megacentres’, whatever name you want to use.” Mr Véran stated his goal of having “10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April”, with the campaign rollout set to speed up next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”. France’s total population is c. 67 million. From Marseille to Toulon to Lyon and Paris, work is ongoing to turn some of the nation’s largest sporting arenas, including Paris’s Stade de France, into mass Covid-19 vaccination centres. However, the health minister has said that his long-term goal is to have “one or two megacenters per department”, which equates to “100 to 200” across the entire country. Once opened, the vaccinodromes will aim to give 1,000 to 2,000 vaccines per day. At present, the average number of doses given at vaccination centres is around 500 per week. Image: Stade de France, courtesy of Zakarie Faibis, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Musicians in Montauban, a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France, performed a public concert last weekend for the first time in months. But don’t worry, no Covid-19 restrictions were broken because the musicians performed from open windows in the centre of the town. The Fenêtres musicales (Musical windows) event took place on Sunday, March 21. Musicians across the town opened windows in central buildings, and played their instruments for passing members of the public. Hugo Schmitt, saxophonist at the Orchestre de la Cité at Ingres, told FranceInfo: “After a year without any concerts, it’s a real relief. To be able to play in the centre of Montauban, in beautiful apartments next to open windows, especially during this period, which has been hard for us as artists, it’s really a gift.” Around 20 musicians played via open windows for the event, with the “concert” lasting around 90 minutes. A small crowd also gathered to listen to three singers and a pianist lay a rendition of Mozart’s Nocturnes. One of the singers, Eugenie Berrocq, said: “Because we can’t go to theatres, and we can’t do this in a more conventional or traditional way, we have to reinvent ourselves. There are many artists who have done this, and I think it’s a very good idea to do it in this way.” One Montauban resident said: “We’ve been without culture for a year now, it’s starting to get a bit long. So this kind of initiative is great.” Another said: “It’s nice, it does you good to watch people playing. We’ve missed it a bit.” *Image courtesy of FranceInfo
The French Government has confirmed a three-step plan to open restaurants, although no firm date has been set for when it will begin. Following a meeting between hospitality representatives and government ministers on March 16, Didier Chenet, president of hospitality union GNI, told news source FranceInfo the date for reopening was dependent on two factors: “The daily number of Covid cases and the number of people vaccinated”. Since the second national lockdown was imposed more than four months ago on October 29, 2020, restaurants and cafes have been closed in France. The government’s initial plan was to reopen such establishment on January 20, 2021, but this was delayed indefinitely as daily Covid-19 cases remained high and health experts feared a spike could occur as a result of Christmas and New Year celebrations. The three-stage plan, Mr Chenet said, would begin with the opening of hotels for breakfast and dinner. Next would be terraces and interiors in cafes and restaurants, including hotel restaurants, with a 50% capacity limit. Finally, “In the third phase establishments would be fully open, with health protocols in place,” he said. Mr Chenet also revealed that each phase would last four weeks.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain have joined the list of countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The countries took the decision after reports have arisen of dangerous blood clots in some recipients. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and European regulators have said there is no evidence the vaccine is to blame. The AstraZeneca shot is one of three vaccines currently in use in Europe. Nevertheless, the blood clot concerns and subsequent cessation of its use represents another setback for the EU’s vaccination drive – which has already been slow off the mark compared to similar campaigns in the United Kingdom and the United States. The EU’s drug regulatory agency has called a meeting for this week to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine and decide how to proceed. All this comes as much of Europe tightens restrictions on schools and businesses as Covid-19 cases surge. In Germany, the decision to halt the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine was taken following advice from the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute. It called for further investigation after blood clots were found in the brains of seven people who had been vaccinated. In response to the situation, Astrazeneca published a press release offering ‘reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence’.
France is working on a digital health pass to allow people to resume leisure activities and travel, a French Government spokesperson said on Wednesday. Speaking after a recent cabinet meeting, Gabriel Attal told reporters that the digital health passes would allow people to resume certain leisure activities in France, such as going to museums, restaurants, sports centres and travelling overseas, in the coming months. The idea is also being considered at a European level to facilitate travel between different countries in Europe and possibly beyond. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said introducing vaccine passports would be unfair because they would discriminate against certain groups, such as the young, in particular, who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. However, Macron said he is in favor of a “health pass” that would also include whether a person has antibodies from getting COVID-19 or the results of a negative test, and could be used to get access to restaurants or other venues. [Related reading: France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month]
France is gearing up for a possible easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from mid-April, as vaccines, to date, are proving effective at lowering infection rates. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.” Attal said vaccinated groups (mainly the elderly) are witnessing falling infection rates, which, he said, is a sign that the country’s vaccination program is working and should be sped up. "It is neither a distant nor uncertain horizon - it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it. "The president (Emmanuel Macron) asked us to submit proposals that could allow for a cautious re-opening of the country soon,” he said. Attal added that the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and safeguard the nation’s health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems will be allowed to be given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after the French Government reversed its policy. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by European Union regulators, the French Government said it should only be given to eligible people under 65 because data from trials in older age groups was limited. The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be offered to people up to the age of 74. However, the shot has been hit by a slow rollout and a lack of trust. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday: "Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74." The announcement has the potential to affect more than two million people. British health authorities released new data on Monday that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80%. The vaccine is widely used in the UK but has missed delivery targets in the EU. People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Veran said. Meanwhile, Germany still hasn’t cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. This has led to fewer people stepping up for the shot and several doses being wasted. Image courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused telehealth to become a bigger economic development concern among local areas. That’s one of the key findings of new research by broadband industry analyst Craig Settles. According to Settles’ Broadband, Local Economies, & the Age of Covid survey -- which polled 200 professionals from economic development departments within local and state governments and economic development agencies across the United States – 40% of respondents indicated that telehealth can have a “measurable impact” on their local economy in terms of attracting medical professionals and reducing unnecessary ER visits. When the same survey was conducted two years ago (in 2019), only about 25% of respondents said the same about telehealth’s potential impact on the medical workforce and ER visits. Moreover, more respondents this year said telehealth can help more mental health services remain local, as well as keep senior citizens living at home longer. Settles says these findings suggest there is money to be made and saved by boosting telehealth capabilities. Specifically, he sees a lot of potential value in local telehealth radiology programs, citing the $1.8 million saved over 10 years by a radiology practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “There are serious dollars and cents to be had if you can do this locally, because people don’t have to go all the way to China to get their X-rays, all the various MRIs and so forth,” Settles said. “The forward-thinking communities, especially if they’re a rural area, I would look at starting a radiology practice because there’s money to be made there locally. Obviously, you can’t do this without broadband, but if you’re one of these cities building the network, that should be a main consideration for revenue.”
A single dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine reduces a person’s risk of infection by 72%, a new study has revealed. According to Public Health England (PHE), the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine "provides high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease.” PHE's Siren Study, which involved healthcare workers aged under 65, found that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 72% after three weeks. Two doses of the vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 85%. This high level of protection also includes the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first identified in the UK in December. For the study, health workers were tested for Covid-19 infection every two weeks using PCR tests and twice a week with lateral flow tests. As Dr. Susan Hopkins, strategic response director at PHE, explained, "there was a lot of asymptomatic testing.” "Overall we are seeing a really strong effect to reducing any infection: asymptomatic and symptomatic," Hopkins said during a press conference held by the UK's Science Media Centre on Monday. Promising early data has also shown that people who are vaccinated and subsequently catch Covid-19 are far less likely to die of, or be hospitalized with, the virus. For example, people over the age of 80 who were infected after being vaccinated were 41% less likely to be hospitalized with the virus and 57% less likely to die of it.
A baby has been born in France following a uterus transplant for the first time, the hospital treating the mother and baby announced on Wednesday. While such births are not unprecedented, they are extremely rare, happening after a woman whose own uterus is damaged or missing has had a cutting-edge procedure to have a healthy one transplanted. The baby, a girl weighing 1.845kg, was born last Friday, according to the team at the Foch Hospital outside Paris. "Mother and baby are doing well," said Dr Jean-Marc Ayoubi, head of gynaecology, obstetrics and reproductive medicine at the hospital. The 36-year-old mother, who reports are naming only as ‘Deborah’, was born without a uterus because of a rare condition known as Rokitansky Syndrome, which affects about one in 4,500 women. Deborah received a uterus transplant in March 2019 from her own mother, then aged 57. The transplant was performed by the same team at the Foch Hospital that delivered the new baby. The first ever birth after a uterus transplant was in Sweden in 2014 and there have been other such births in the United States and Brazil to date. However, they remain rare. Nevertheless, this new birth, as well as those before it, will give hope to women who suffer similar reproductive problems that they maybe have alternatives to adoption or surrogacy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday gave two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine the green light to be used for emergency use, listing them on its Emergency Use Listing (EUL), paving the way for them to be rolled out globally through COVAX. The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India. WHO’s EUL assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines. “Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. ‘But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things – a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.” Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was listed for emergency use by WHO on 31 December 2020.
Europe's oldest living person has survived COVID-19 after testing positive just weeks before her 117th birthday. Sister André, a French nun who was born in 1904, tested positive in the retirement home where she lives in Toulon, southern France, on January 16, according to the home’s communications director, David Tavella. André, who was born Lucille Randon, showed no symptoms from the virus and didn’t even know she was infected until she received her positive test. Despite no visitors being allowed because of strict COVID protocols, André is preparing to celebrate her 117th birthday today, Thursday 11th February. She will reportedly receive video messages from her family and the local mayor, as well as taking part in a video Mass, Tavella said. André's birthday meal will feature her favorites: foie gras, baked Alaska and a glass of red wine, Tavella added. Remarkably, André has lived through two world wars, as well as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that infected around 500 million people. While Andre is the oldest living person in France today, she’s not the oldest in the world. That crown is held by Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who was born in 1903, according to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). * Image credit Gérard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
Last Saturday, February 6, France reported both a fall in new COVID-19 infections and in the number of patients being treated in hospital. The country registered 20,586 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, down from 22,139 the previous day and marking the third straight daily fall. Meanwhile, hospitals across the country were treating 27,369 people for the disease, down 245 from the previous day, marking the fourth consecutive daily fall. The fall in numbers comes as France continues with its COVID-19 vaccination programme, with 1.86 million people now having received their first dose. Almost a quarter of a million people (247,260) have also received their second dose. At present, France has three vaccines approved for use: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the latest to be received. The country has taken delivery of 273,600 AstraZeneca, according to the health ministry, with a second batch of 304,800 doses scheduled to be delivered this week. The initial AstraZeneca shots were prioritized for health personnel under 65, with the first injections taking place over the weekend. While the arrival of the AstraZeneca shot will help France accelerate its vaccination programme, the quantities that are expected to be delivered are likely to be less than first thought. Nevertheless, with a third approved vaccine and COVID numbers falling, pressure on the French health system is easing day by day.
Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, has said he wants to permanently expand access to telemedicine services across the state, noting that they benefit both patients and doctors. Speaking during his State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Abbott said: “We should seize the opportunity this session to permanently expand telemedicine so that every Texan in every region of the state can benefit.” Telemedicine services in Texas have surged since the start of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But if Gov. Abbott wants to maintain telemedicine access and coverage in Texas beyond the pandemic, he will need the help of the Texas Legislature, Congress, and private insurance providers. Last March, Gov. Abbott eased regulations regarding the types of health care services that can be offered over the phone or through video calls. He also issued an emergency rule so that the Texas Dept. of Insurance (TDI) could compensate healthcare providers for telemedicine consultations at the same rate as in-person visits. However, this equalized compensation only applied to patients covered by state-regulated insurance plans, like those purchased through HealthCare.gov, which make up only 15% of plans in Texas, according to TDI. Gov. Abbott also highlighted how critical telemedicine services have been in enabling Texans to get needed health services this past year.
Against expectations, France has resisted imposing a nationwide lockdown, choosing to introduce new Covid-19 border restrictions instead. Under the new restrictions, all non-essential travel from outside the EU has been banned and testing requirements for travellers from within the EU have been tightened. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said France's night curfew would also be more tightly enforced and large shopping centres would close. It had been expected that French President Emmanuel Macron would impose a third national lockdown to contain Covid-19. However, the French premiere opted to tighten existing restrictions on travel and shopping instead. The move sees France following a different path than its two biggest neighbours Britain and Germany, at a time when the more contagious UK variant of the disease is spreading rapidly across Europe. [Related reading: Moderna says its vaccine will work against new COVID variants] "Everything suggests that a new wave could occur because of the variant, but perhaps we can avoid it thanks to the measures that we decided early and that the French people are respecting," Health Minister Olivier Veran told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper on Sunday. Despite the news of tighter border restrictions, France Surgery’s proprietary telehealth platforms remain open and accessible to all of our international clients, one of the main benefits of remote healthcare.
Changes to a person’s tongue, hands or the soles of their feet could provide an early indication that they are infected with Covid-19, Spanish researchers say. In a study presented on Tuesday, the researchers said that among 666 patients with Covid-19 at Madrid’s IFEMA field hospital set up during the first wave of the pandemic, one in four patients said they had noticed changes to their tongue. Four out of 10 also noticed unusual signs on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet. The study was carried out in April by healthcare professionals from Madrid’s La Paz hospital and primary care services. The findings were published in the British Journal of Dermatology in the form of a “research letter” in September. Some patients said they experienced swelling of their tongues and the appearance of patches – something which has now been dubbed ‘Covid tongue’. This was also associated with a loss of taste. Another symptom was a burning sensation and redness on the palms or soles of the feet, which in some cases was also followed by the appearance of small blemishes. “Almost half of patients with mild‐to‐moderate Covid‐19 admitted in a field‐hospital during a two‐week period showed mucocutaneous findings,” the researchers said. “The oral cavity was frequently involved and deserves specific examination under appropriate circumstances to avoid contagion risk.”
With reports emerging that several different COVID variants are now circulating around the world, Moderna has released a statement saying it believes its vaccine protects against at least two of the new strains. Moderna Inc said on Monday it believes its COVID-19 vaccine protects against both new variants found in Britain and South Africa. However, the American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company also said it will test a separate booster shot aimed at the South African variant after concluding the antibody response could be diminished. The company said in a press release that it found no reduction in the antibody response against the variant found in Britain. Against the South African variant, Moderna said it found a reduced response but still believed its two-dose regimen would provide protection. The emergence of new COVID variants in Britain, South Africa and Brazil has created some concern that mutations in the virus may make vaccines less effective. Moderna’s announcement will serve to alleviate some of that concern, but the proof will be in the infection numbers going forward. Moderna shares rose nearly 10% off the back of the news during Monday trading. Moderna said it plans to publish data from its tests against the variants on the website bioRxiv.
Despite Covid-19-related lockdowns continuing in many countries across the world, the Michelin Guide has awarded its coveted stars for 2021 — and France (including Monaco) now has more three-star establishments than any other country. Originally due to be announced at a lavish gala ceremony in Cognac, southwest France, the Michelin awards were broadcast via Facebook on Monday from the Jules Vernes restaurant (one star) on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Social distancing rules forced Michelin to call off the event in Cognac, which would have been the first time the awards were held outside Paris. Ahead of this year’s awards, Michelin had promised that no three-star restaurants would be demoted as the global pandemic continues, causing many establishments to remain closed or switch to take-aways and deliveries. One of the main talking points of this year’s awards was ONA, which stands for Origine Non Animale or Non-Animal Origin. The vegan restaurant in Ares near Bordeaux, which serves only plant-based foods, became the first of its kind in the country to be awarded a Michelin star. Vegan restaurants in the US, Germany and Spain have already received Michelin stars in recent years. ONA was also awarded a green star for its strong ethical and sustainable practices.
With Covid-19 vaccines now being rolled out in many countries across the world, a number of tech giants are teaming up to help facilitate the return to "normal". A coalition known as the Vaccine Credential Initiative — which boasts healthcare and tech leaders, including Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, Cerner, Cigna's Evernorth, and the Mayo Clinic (among others) in its ranks — wants to ensure that everyone has access to a secure, digital record of their Covid-19 vaccination. This kind of digital vaccine passport, which can be stored in people's smartphones, could be used for everything from airline travel to entering concert venues. The coalition has even considered those without smartphones. Such individuals will be given a printable QR code containing their record that can be scanned wherever they go. "Just as Covid-19 does not discriminate based on socio-economic status, we must ensure that convenient access to immunization records crosses the digital divide," Brian Anderson, chief digital health physician at non-profit research organization MITRE, a member of the coalition, said in a statement. With such vaccine passports in place, a healthy and safe return to work, school, travel and life in general can be accelerated.
Despite more than 40 countries recently closing their borders to travellers from the UK, cases of the new variant Covid-19 virus have been confirmed in several European countries, including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All of the confirmed cases were linked to people who had arrived from the UK. The revelations take the total number of new countries impacted by the new variant to 15, with South Korea the latest nation to announce a confirmed case. According to Reuters, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCPA) found traces of the United Kingdom (UK) variant in three individuals from London who entered South Korea on December 22. Meanwhile, both Canada and Japan have also announced that they have found traces of the new Covid-19 strain in their countries. What is most alarming about Canada’s announcement is that the individual in which the new variant was discovered has no known travel history and exposure or high-risk contact. Scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged all regions of England to be placed under tier 4 restrictions, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues cannot operate. With evidence emerging that the new variant appears to be particularly infectious among children, teaching unions have urged for schools to remain closed. Speaking about the new variant, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “If this new variant is behind the increase in this age group, then that is a big worry.”
More than 40 countries have banned individuals arriving from the United Kingdom due to concerns about a new variant of coronavirus. France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, which meant no lorries or ferries could leave from Dover. Meanwhile, flights from the UK have either been suspended or are in the process of being suspended to countries across the world, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. The UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, has also temporarily suspended all services to mainland Europe, due to the "current restrictions around air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK". UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation, saying that both sides wanted to resolve "these problems as fast as possible". The ban on UK arrivals came about after a new strain of coronavirus – which is reportedly 70% more transmissible – has been spreading across London and south-east England. However, health officials have said there is no evidence that this new variant is more deadly or would react differently to vaccines. French Europe Minister Clément Beaune is expected to announce today what measures were being introduced "after this phase of emergency and harsh precaution that we had to take". Any measures, he said, would come into effect from Wednesday. [Related reading: France lifts lockdown, opens borders for Covid-safe countries]
After about a month and a half of complete lockdown, France’s Covid-19 restrictions are easing. While several types of venue will remain closed, the lockdown will be replaced with a nightly curfew, designed to avoid another spike of cases. French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said that the health situation in France has improved considerably in recent weeks. However, he warned that the second wave of the pandemic had yet to end. “We have not yet reached the end of this 2nd wave, and we will not be, on December 15,” he said, explaining why a nightly curfew would be in place, and some venues prevented from reopening. In addition to the lockdown ending, France has also opened both international travel and travel to different regions of the country for non-essential reasons. This will allow tourists and second homeowners to once again visit France, as well as enabling people to travel to see relatives and friends in other parts of the country or other countries. In his speech announcing the new measures, PM Castex said that travel on the evening of December 24 will be allowed, but not for more than six adults at a time. He also reminded French citizens to respect the hygiene and social distancing guidelines. Under the new measures, travel between France and the following countries/territories is now permitted: - European Union - Andorra - Australia - The Holy See - Iceland - Japan - Liechtenstein - Monaco - New Zealand - Norway - Rwanda - San Marino - South Korea - Singapore - Switzerland - Thailand - United Kingdom
The United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have started national Covid-19 vaccine rollouts, as the pandemic situation in each country continues to worsen. In the United States, the first batches of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine left a Michigan manufacturing plant on Sunday bound for 150 locations across the country. The vaccine will now be given to the most vulnerable Americans, including frontline health workers and long-term care home residents. The United States is slowly approaching the once unthinkable threshold of 300,000 Covid-related deaths. Meanwhile, the UK witnessed its first Covid vaccination last week. It was given to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, with up to four million more expected to follow by the end of December. The UK made history earlier this month when it became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the UK comes as the capital, London, witnesses a surge in cases. As a result, London and several other areas in the south-east will this week enter the toughest coronavirus restrictions (tier 3) in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus and reduce infection numbers. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — with the first 800,000 doses coming from Pfizer's facilities in Belgium to the UK this week.
Telehealth solutions have come into their own during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, adoption of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since last year. With both physicians and patients alike reaping benefits from telehealth solutions, it’s inevitable that some ambulatory care and services will never return to being face-to-face. However, as solutions mature and become more readily adopted, healthcare providers need to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to telehealth will not afford the best outcomes for patients. Before implementing any telehealth services at all, healthcare providers need to understand: - Who their consumers are? - Where do these consumers live? - What Internet access do they have? - And what is their level of technological literacy? These four considerations are key in helping healthcare providers develop telehealth solutions that are both intuitive and meet their patients’ varying needs. Failure to address these four considerations could lead to telehealth solutions simply not being utilized. Here at France Surgery, we pride ourselves on the transformational telehealth services we provide. It’s our goal to provide our patients with access to SMART healthcare wherever they are and whenever they need it. We understand that what works for one patient won’t necessarily work for another, which is why we never look to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on many areas of our lives, some more obvious than others. To highlight just how wide-ranging the effects of pandemic have been, the World Economic Forum has compiled a list of five major trends that are being accelerated by the Covid-19. Here are the trends Covid has accelerated, according to the World Economic Forum: 1. Increased screen time We’re all spending more time in front of screens (TVs, computers, smartphones). In fact, our use of screens has risen considerably, with 44% of people under the age of 18 now reporting four hours or more of screen time per day (up from 21% prior to the pandemic). 2. A big consumer shake-up Physical buying is now as “frictionless” as possible and online shopping has become as nimble as possible. Cashierless checkouts and contactless payment means are fast becoming the norm in-store, while eCommerce companies (especially Amazon) have reported a surge in sales. 3. Peak globalization Globalization has plateaued since the financial crisis and the Covid pandemic seems to be the final nail in its coffin. 4. A broadening wealth gap Billionaires are now worth more than ever and inequality is growing. Those in the top 50% wealth bracket have witnessed their fortunes growing, while those in the bottom 50 have seen stagnation. 5. The rise of the flexible workplace In 2019, more than half of companies did not have flexible working arrangements or the capabilities to allow staff to work flexibly. Fast-forward to today and 82% of business leaders say they intend to permit remote working some of the time going forward.
Newsweek, in collaboration with Statista Inc., has compiled a league table of the world’s best specialized hospitals 2021, and France has no less than 26 Cancer Centers (CLCCs) in the top 200. Topping the list of French oncology hospitals is Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, which ranked fifth in the overall oncology list. Two more French cancer centers – Institut Curie and Hôpital Universitaire Pitié Salpêtrière – were also in the top 50, ranking 12th and 31st respectively. All in all, 26 French cancer hospitals were included in the top 200 global oncology list, highlighting just how renowned these establishments are on the international medical stage. Speaking about the rankings, Jean-Yves Blay, President of Unicancer – the National Federation of French Cancer Centres – said: “We are proud to see that more than half of CLCCs are ranked among the best cancer hospitals in the world. The model of care for cancer patients within the CLCCs is unique and this international recognition underscores the strength and excellence of our network, supported by common values and commitments, at the service of the patient. It also testifies to our constant quest for excellence in healthcare, research and higher education.” For the rankings, Newsweek and Statista surveyed more than 40,000 medical experts from over 20 countries. A global board of experts was then asked to review and rank the hospitals outlined in the survey. You can check out the full Newsweek oncology ranking here.
A Singaporean woman who was infected with Covid-19 while pregnant has given birth to a baby which has antibodies against the disease. The mother, Celine Ng-Chan, became mildly ill after contracting Covid-19 and spent two-and-a-half weeks in hospital as a result. Ng-Chan gave birth last month and her baby was found not to have Covid-19. However, the fact it had antibodies offers new clues as to whether the disease can be passed from mother to child in utero. Speaking to the Straits Times newspaper, Ng-Chan said: “My doctor suspects I have transferred my COVID-19 antibodies to him during my pregnancy.” Ng-Chan and her baby’s experience has prompted doctors in Singapore’s public hospitals to investigate further the impact of Covid-19 on unborn babies. This will add to research already being conducted internationally on whether the infection can be transferred during pregnancy, how babies develop antibodies in the womb and whether they offer an effective shield against the virus. One of the hospitals involved in the studies is KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Tan Hak Koon, chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology division at KK, said: "It is still unknown whether the presence of these antibodies in a newborn baby confers a degree of protection against Covid-19 infection, much less the duration of protection."
It is estimated that a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both worldwide — about one in 500-750 births. Usually, with surgery, a child born with a cleft can have a new, beautiful smile and live a normal life. However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has meant that affected babies are having even greater difficulty in getting their much-needed cleft treatment. Fortunately, cleft charities are continuing their work by taking advantage of telehealth solutions. One such charity is Smile Train, whose Philippine arm has continued providing ongoing comprehensive cleft care including nutrition, speech therapy and psychological support to patients, despite temporarily postponing surgeries. “This year was a different year because of the Covid pandemic. The last three or four months we saw a drop in the number of cases in many hospital nationwide. Some stopped doing operations. But Smile Train is not just about surgery. What we strive to do is to be able to provide cleft comprehensive care to those who need it whether be it counseling, guidance in terms of how do you breastfeed baby with a cleft or after surgery, what does the child still need, among others,” said Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Country Director of Smile Train Philippines, during a virtual media conference. Flaviano said the charity is also providing psychosocial support to older patients via telehealth, to help boost their self-confidence. Since parents of cleft babies aren’t able to visit clinics resulting to unanswered questions, Smile Train is trying to support them through virtual consultations with their partner surgeons or doctors, or through Facebook Live discussions.
A researcher from the University of Southern California (USC) Medical Center in Los Angeles says telemedicine had a positive impact on inner city children with asthma at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kenny Kwong, MD, making the switch to telemedicine for routine asthma visits early on in the pandemic resulted in positive disease control and an increase in appointment "show rates" among Los Angeles inner city children. Prior to taking advantage of telemedicine, in-person appointment show rates between March and June 2019 averaged 70%-80%. After the switch to telemedicine, this increased to 90%-95% between March and June 2020. Furthermore, delivering routine asthma care via telemedicine did not appear to negatively impact asthma control among the children in the study, Wong said in a presentation at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology virtual meeting. There was also a notable increase in the amount of time healthcare providers spent with patients after switching to telemedicine, with appointments conducted over the telephone lasting as much as 62% longer than pre-pandemic in-person visits. “This system has worked very well. We have been able to treat many asthmatic children until the debacle of COVID-19. All our face-to-face visits on the mobile asthma units came to a grinding halt, and we had to switch almost overnight to telephone visits,” Wong said.
Moderna Inc. says its experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in protecting people from Covid-19. The claims are based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial. Moderna is the second US company to announce a Covid-19 vaccine this week, following in the footsteps of Pfizer, whose own vaccine boasts a 90% efficacy rate. The Moderna announcement means that there could be at least two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States in December.As many as 60 million doses could be available by the end of 2020. Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines are both built using new technology known as messenger RNA or mRNA. Both represent powerful new ways to combat the ongoing pandemic, which has to date infected 54 million people and killed 1.3 million. Both vaccines also come at a time when Covid-19 cases appear to be surging – especially in the US where new cases of the virus are now totaling more than one hundred thousand per day. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute. This is particularly good news for countries like India with hot climates that would struggle to keep Pfizer’s vaccine at the required -70°C. Speaking about the firm's vaccine, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said: “Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we'll be ready to ship through Warp Speed almost in hours. So it could start being distributed instantly.”
The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has been monumental. But for physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, it’s been particularly difficult. In addition to carrying out their already demanding day jobs, these individuals have had the added stress of coping with social distancing and a surge in patient numbers. It is, therefore, no wonder that a significant proportion of NHS staff in England are concerned about burnout. While it’s not often considered when talking about the benefits of telehealth, such solutions can actually help reduce the risk of physician burnout. Here’s how: - Telehealth helps improve physician work-life balance - Telehealth makes for more optimized schedules - Telehealth reduces the need to commute - Telehealth can help improve physician-patient relationships - Telehealth helps address healthcare coverage gaps, meaning physicians don’t after to overstretch themselves - Telehealth solutions allow physicians more time to look after themselves Healthcare provider burnout is a serious issue. If the very people whose jobs it is to look after us fall ill themselves, how will it bode for the rest of us? You can find out more about the telehealth services provided by us here at France Surgery by contacting us today.
Telehealth is probably not the first thing you think of when talking about ways of assessing possible stroke patients in an emergency. But Norther Ireland has just approved exactly such a system, highlighting the traction that telehealth solutions are garnering today. The solution, provided by Health Services Limited (HSL), enables clinicians and patients to have video consultations, with the ultimate goal being to make a diagnosis. Patients still need to visit an A&E department, but when they do the emergency clinicians who receive them can use the telehealth solution to get expert treatment advice remotely from stroke consultants. The solution can be used on tablets, smartphones and laptops, making it different to other virtual stroke assessment tools in the market that rely on external systems to function, the company claims. It has everything built-in that a stroke consultant needs to make an initial diagnosis of the stroke patient. The app also has the functionality to save the patient’s results in their electronic care record. [Related reading: The benefits of electronic health records] Perhaps the biggest benefit of the telehealth solution is that it enables stroke consultants to assess a patient’s condition as soon as possible and relay timely, potentially life-saving advice to their emergency room counterparts. The stroke assessment telehealth solution is already in place in hospitals across Northern Ireland the United Kingdom.
The wider adoption of telemedicine has been one of the most prominent changes to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, data shows that usage of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since last year. Now, new research shows that the vast majority of gastroenterologists are planning to use telehealth more going forward. According to the survey presented at the annual American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) 2020 conference, up to 91% of gastroenterologist respondents say they plan to integrate telehealth into their practice following the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the survey revealed that gastroenterologists typically view telehealth in a positive light, with 75% of survey respondents reporting their experience of telehealth solutions has been positive. Only 6% reported a negative experience. As many as 63% of gastroenterologists also said they felt telehealth was more efficient than traditional visits, while 58% considered adding telehealth visits between endoscopic procedures. In terms of barriers to telehealth adoption, the biggest for gastroenterologists was the inability to conduct a physical exam, cited by 44.1%. For 27% of gastroenterologist respondents, this barrier was considered critical. Around two-thirds of respondents said their adoption of telehealth solutions would depend on whether the medium would be covered by appropriate insurance payments (equal to in-person consultations). You can find out more about the telehealth services provided by us here at France Surgery by contacting us today.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of patients utilizing telehealth solutions has increased significantly. But with telehealth set to remain a mainstay of healthcare going forward, it begs the questions of what are the pros and cons of telehealth? We’ve listed some of each below to help you make an informed decision. Advantages of telehealth for patients: - Patients can typically get an appointment sooner - Appointments are carried out in the safety of a patient’s home or workplace — saving time and money on gas and parking - Telehealth allows elderly patients and those with reduced mobility, as well as people in rural locations, continued access healthcare services - Telehealth services are designed to be easy to adopt - Recent Medicare rule changes in the United States mean that people in more states are covered and can take advantage of telehealth services as part of their health plans - Telehealth services can often be used via a smartphone - A great way to satisfy post-surgical follow-ups Advantages of telehealth for healthcare providers: - More free time to help the neediest patients - Less overcrowding in doctor’s practices - Easier to implement social distancing guidelines Disadvantages of telehealth: - Not suitable for emergency situations (although tele-ICUs are a thing) - Not suitable for when a clinician needs to physically interact with a patient - Unsuitable for routine vaccinations - Not as intimate as a traditional face-to-face appointment If you’d like to find out more about the telehealth services provided by France Surgery, please get in touch.
The United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released new data that shows usage of telehealth services has jumped significantly over the past year. According to the figures, more than 34.5 million services were delivered via telehealth in Medicare and in the Children's Health Insurance Program from March through June. This represents an increase of a whopping 2,532% in services delivered via telehealth compared to March through June 2019. Furthermore, the agency also notes that there is always a "claims lag" between the time a service occurs and when the claim is reflected in its database. Taking this into account, the actual number of services delivered via telehealth is likely to be higher than reported. The CMS data reflects the relaxation of federal regulations around virtual care at the start of the pandemic, which caused usage of telehealth services to skyrocket. Speaking about the figures, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement: "This revolutionary method of improving access to care is transforming healthcare delivery in America." [Related reading: Telehealth in the ER affords better outcomes for both patients and healthcare providers – research]
We’ve written before about how telehealth has come into its own during the Covid-19 pandemic. Adoption of telehealth has allowed patients with less serious ailments to remain at home and seek advice remotely, freeing up clinicians’ precious time to focus on individuals with more pressing healthcare needs. Now, new research shows that when utilized in an ER setting, telehealth solutions can yield positive results for both patients and providers. According to the research published in the INFORMS journal Information Systems Research, which looked at emergency room visits in New York from 2010 to 2014, increasing wider use of telehealth in the emergency room can reduce both wait times and patient length of stay. When it came to patient length of stay, telehealth had a positive impact because it allowed for more flexible resource allocation, particularly when there is an ER demand surge and/or supply shortage. Furthermore, adoption of telehealth in ERs also reduces patient wait time, a reality that in turn reduces length of stay. This is a particularly important factor because of the common and nagging problem of overcrowding in ERs. With social distancing guidelines still firmly in place, reducing overcrowding in emergency rooms needs to be a top priority for hospitals.