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France makes Covid-19 health pass compulsary for almost 2m workers

31/08/2021

France extended its mandate to carry Covid-19 health passes to certain categories of workers as of yesterday. The move marks a new stage in the French government’s strategy to encourage members of the public to have Covid-19 vaccines. Under the new rules, staff who work face to face with the public – for example, at cafés, cinemas or on public transport – are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Some 1.8 million workers across the country will be encompassed by the measures. Members of the public are already required to carry health passes in order to access eateries and cultural or leisure venues. While polls suggest a majority of the public supports Covid-19 health passes, their introduction has led to protests throughout the summer, with tens of thousands of protesters staging rallies across the country on consecutive weekends. The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital. [Related reading: France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists] *Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists

12/08/2021

Since Monday, anyone wanting to visit a restaurant, bar or other attraction/venue in France has to use a QR code-based digital health pass. The passes are designed to prove a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours. Now, vaccinated travelers to France from outside the European Union have a way to obtain the digital health passes and visit popular tourist sites, including iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, travel across the country by train, or enjoy a coffee and croissant at a Paris cafe. US travelers already in France or planning to arrive by Sunday can apply for a French health pass by submitting a copy of their CDC vaccine card, valid passport, and airline tickets to French officials via email. Visitors from the US, Canada and the rest of the world have bespoke email addresses. Visitors to France will need to have been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccines. The French government is currently accepting applications from travelers who are 18 and older, and are already in Europe or plan to arrive by August 15. Right now, it is unclear how the process may change for visitors planning trips further ahead. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay

‘Pingdemic’ causes one in five Brits to turn off health service COVID tracing app

22/07/2021

The UK NHS’ COVID app alerts people who have it installed to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus disease. But a surge in the number of notifications being received has led to a significant proportion of Brits simply switching the app off. According to a YouGov poll, one in five (20%) Brits have switched off the contract tracing function of the NHS COVID app, as the country experiences a so-called “pingdemic” of alerts. While anyone who is pinged by the app is not obliged by law to self-isolate, the UK government is strongly advising people to follow the advice to help curb COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 restrictions were recently lifted in England and since July 19, there are now no limits on how many people can meet or attend events; nightclubs have reopened; and table service is no longer necessary in pubs and restaurants. However, many other governments are looking at the UK as something of a guinea pig, having taken the decision to ease COVID restrictions despite surging numbers of delta variant cases. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate, so it remains to be seen if that is enough to prevent the delta variant from causing significant problems. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay

France broadens use of COVID-19 health pass, lowers fines

20/07/2021

In an attempt to curb COVID-19 delta variant infections, France will require anyone entering a restaurant, café, shopping centre, hospital or taking a long-distance train to show a special health pass from August. The same health pass – which shows that a person has been vaccinated, has recently had a negative coronavirus test or has newly recovered from the virus – will also be required for anyone over the age of 12 to enter a cinema, theatre, museum, theme park or cultural centre. Originally, any business found not to be checking said health passes of its client could face a 45,000 euro fine. This has now been lowered significantly, with fines starting at 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Checks will initially be meant to help people apply the measures, but the fines will not be imposed immediately. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference he could not say exactly when the "run-in period" would end and fines would be imposed. He said it might be more than a week, but would be less than a month, to allow everyone the time needed to adapt to the new rules. "We have entered the fourth wave of the epidemic," Attal said after a meeting of the French cabinet. *Image by Please Don't sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

Children aged 12 can now get a COVID vaccine in France

16/06/2021

On Tuesday, France lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to 12, opening the door for millions of French children to receive a boost to their resilience to the coronavirus pandemic. Perceval Gete, a 12-year-old French boy from the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, was one of the youngest people in Europe to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports. To accommodate his young age, the nurse administering the jab had to use a special child-size needle. “I wanted it to be done as soon as possible,” his mother, Melanie Gete, said at the vaccination center in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine after Perceval had the jab. Prior to the rule change, people in France had to be at least 18 years old, or 16 if they had underlying conditions, to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Now, providing they have parental consent, children as young as 12 can be vaccinated. In wealthy countries worldwide, governments have been expanding their vaccination programs to include younger people, who, it is worth noting, are less likely than older individuals to get seriously ill from COVID-19. However, France’s limit of 12 years is one of the lowest of any major European Union state. Nurse Aurelie Job, who administered the vaccine to Perceval Gete on Tuesday, used a needle that is around half the length of the standard size used for adults. “Children have smaller arms so we need smaller needles to vaccinate children,” she said. “It prevents us from touching the bone while vaccinating children, and it’s less upsetting for them.”

‘Covid terraces’ to become permanent fixtures this summer in Paris

09/06/2021

Last year, makeshift terraces sprang up on many cafes across Paris, allowing COVID-wary patrons to be served outdoors. Now, city hall has announced these ‘Covid terraces’ will become a permanent fixture in the French capital this summer. In response to the impact of the pandemic on beleaguered restaurant and café owners who were no longer allowed to serve indoors, the city of Paris turned over thousands of parking spaces to enable establishments to continue serving drinks and food outdoors. Many establishment owners invested in high-quality structures in the spaces, which are still usable today. Terraces will have to remain without closed walls and plants and other greenery will be encouraged. "Roofs, tarps, reception tents, wooden pallets and advertising will be prohibited," the deputy mayor in charge of commerce, Olivia Polski, told AFP. There will also be a requirement for them to shut down by 10:00pm, so that local residents won’t be disturbed by any noise. The city will hold an annual contest for the most attractive designs, a move clearly aimed at encouraging aesthetically pleasing structures. Outdoor seating can also be extended on adjacent squares and sidewalks, and also in front of neighbouring businesses, providing they give approval. No heating or music systems will be allowed, and Polski said the city would step up deployments of specially developed "Meduse" microphones for pinpointing the sources of noise pollution across the city. Outdoor drinking and dining resumed across France last month as France emerged from its third wave of coronavirus cases, a huge relief for restaurants and bars closed since last October. On Wednesday, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to start serving indoors and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 11:00 pm, which is expected to further swell the summer sidewalk crowds. *Image: Lucas BARIOULET AFP/File

How telehealth can complement medical tourism

27/05/2021

Prior to the Covid-10 pandemic, medical tourism was one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Indeed, according to Grand View Research, the global medical tourism market size was valued at US$44.8 billion in 2019, with compound annual growth of 21.1% expected between 2020 and 2027. However, the global SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has significantly impacted travel abroad. Luckily, we are seeing signs that things are slowly returning to normal. [Related reading: France to offer free Covid-19 tests to tourists this summer] Now, something that has come into its own during the coronavirus pandemic is telehealth. In fact, data shows usage of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since 2019. But what’s going to happen to telehealth services once “normal” travel resumes? We believe they’ll still play a pivotal role, particularly when it comes to complementing medical tourism. With telehealth, patients can have consultations with specialists on the other side of the world, negating the need to travel in the first instance. If the patient and clinician agree that travel for surgery or other healthcare is necessary, telehealth can continue to afford benefits, including: - Improve the quality and efficiency of customer service by helping to coordinate care between providers in the patient’s home country and the medical tourism destination - Enhance pre-operative and post-operative care - Optimize patient and family member travel. If you’d like to find out more about our telehealth services and/or how we can help you get any medical treatment you need in France, get in touch today. *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Telemedicine to save healthcare industry $21bn globally by 2025

11/05/2021

Telemedicine will save the healthcare industry a staggering $21 billion in costs by 2025, new research suggests. This represents an increase of over 80% in the next four years, rising from $11 billion in 2021. According to the study by Juniper Research, teleconsultations, a service that enables patients and physicians to interact remotely with patients, will play a key role in enabling these significant savings. However, Juniper cautioned that such savings would be restricted to developed countries where people have access to required devices and suitable Internet connectivity. Indeed, Juniper predicts that North America and Europe will realise over 80% of savings by 2025. The Jupiter report also reveals how telemedicine usage has soared as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with remote consultations rising from over 280 million in 2019, to 348 million in 2020. By taking advantage of telehealth solutions, doctor’s offices have been able to significantly reduce the number of face-to-face appointments they’ve needed to accommodate, cutting the risk of waiting room Covid-19 infections. However, the report did warn that the significant investment required and obligation to abide by data protection laws, such as the US’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), could discourage telemedicine adoption among smaller healthcare providers. “Any deregulation must ensure that patient confidentiality is not undermined,” said research author Adam Wears. “Additionally, we recommend that innovative and emerging teleconsultation services are integrated into existing healthcare technologies, such as electronic health records, to maximise their benefits to healthcare providers.” Jupiter Research’s report, Telemedicine: Emerging Technologies, Regional Readiness & Market Forecasts 2021‑2025, is available here: https://www.juniperresearch.com/researchstore/key-vertical-markets/telemedicine-research-report *Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

France grants citizenship to more than 2000 foreign workers for their help with Covid-19

06/05/2021

France has granted citizenship to more than 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers as a reward to them for their services to the country throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 children, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for "showing their attachment to the nation". Back in September, Schiappa instructed citizenship authorities to speed up the applications of essential workers who had "actively contributed" in the fight against Covid-19. She ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France. Normally, under French Nationality Law, a person can apply for French citizenship by naturalization after five years' habitual and continuous residence in the country. Among the more than 2,000 individuals granted citizenship are health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies. Schiappa's office said that over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, adding that all requests were being given "the greatest consideration". In 2020, 61,371 people were granted French citizenship, a decline of 20% compared with 2019. [Related reading: Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19

05/05/2021

France’s third Covid-19 lockdown is easing. Children have returned to school across the country and a domestic travel ban has been lifted. Citizens can now travel anywhere in France, which is a huge improvement over the previous restriction that prevented people from going more than 10km (six miles) from their homes. French citizens also no longer need to carry a form giving a valid reason for travelling. However, a night-time curfew remains in force in the country, with restrictions in place from 19:00 to 06:00 nationwide France’s third lockdown, lighter than the previous two, was implemented back in March. Under the French government's plan, more easing will begin on 19 May, when the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 21:00, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to welcome outdoor diners, and spectators will be allowed to return to sports venues. Along with indoor eating places, France will keep non-essential businesses, shopping centres and leisure facilities closed. The lockdown easing comes as France continues to register around 25,000 new coronavirus infections each day. Fortunately, the number of patients in intensive care units has dropped below 5,600. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay

Australian Government to extend telehealth funding until at least the end of the year

27/04/2021

During the coronavirus pandemic, eligible Australians have been accessing Medicare-subsidised telehealth services. However, this arrangement is due to end on June 30. But it now looks like there will be an extension until at least the end of the year. Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has said the government will extend Medicare-subsidised telehealth services until the end of the year, while the government works with peak bodies to design a post-pandemic telehealth system going forward “Over the last 12 months, telehealth services have been life-changing for many in need of support,” Mr Hunt said. “The extension will ensure that Australians can continue to see their GP, renew scripts and seek mental health support from the safety of their own home. This allows vulnerable Australians to feel protected and supported during these unprecedented times.” The Australian Government rapidly rolled out telehealth subsidies back in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic became apparent to enable citizens to continue to access GP, mental health and allied health services even during lockdowns. Over the course of the year to the end of March, more than 54 million Medicare-subsidised telehealth services were delivered to 13.5 million patients. The cost of the six-month extension will be detailed in the Australian federal budget on May 11, 2021. *Image: Sydney Opera House, courtesy of Patty Jansen from Pixabay

France is first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate

22/04/2021

France has become the first European country to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as part of a Europe-wide scheme which Brussels hopes will allow more freedom of travel within the bloc by the summer. The testing will be conducted through France’s TousAntiCovid app, part of the country’s contact tracing programme, which has been upgraded to allow it to store negative Covid-19 test results on travellers’ mobile phones. The app is being trialled on flights to Corsica and overseas départements from this week. According to a French official, at first, the certificates will only be used for travel, but they “could eventually be adopted for public events such as concerts, festivals and trade fairs,” although not for bars and restaurants. The app has so far been downloaded by nearly 15 million French citizens. The French trial will form one part of a “reinforced, consolidated and standardised” Europe-wide system, the minister for digital transition, Cédric O, said. Talks are already underway with several countries and airlines to ensure early recognition. The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected the EU’s “digital green certificate” to be operational by 21st June. The certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Schools in France close as third national lockdown begins

08/04/2021

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 consultations via drone could soon be real

31/03/2021

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

French government confirms three-stage plan to open restaurants

18/03/2021

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.

France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month

04/03/2021

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.

UK study finds one dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reduces risk of Covid-19 infection by 72%

23/02/2021

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.

New Covid-19 variant now discovered in dozens of countries

29/12/2020

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 ban UK arrivals as new coronavirus variant spreads across south-east England

22/12/2020

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]

US and UK begin Covid-19 vaccine rollouts

15/12/2020

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.

Singaporean mother gives birth to baby with Covid-19 antibodies

01/12/2020

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."

Philippine charity continues to help cleft patients despite pandemic by utilizing telehealth

26/11/2020

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.

Moderna announces vaccine that it says is 94.5% effective against Covid-19

17/11/2020

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.”

How telehealth reduces the risk of physician burnout

12/11/2020

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 improves experience for chronic pain patients

06/10/2020

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has heard at its annual Anesthesiology 2020 meeting that telehealth technology has been affording positive experiences for patients. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, patients who saw a pain medicine specialist via telehealth saved time and money and were highly satisfied with their experience, according to a study presented at the virtual event. Conducted from August 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, the study highlights how many chronic pain patients are confident they will receive good care via telehealth, while at the same time benefiting from avoiding lengthy commutes and less time spent in traffic. The results bolster the case for provider adoption of telehealth technology, which has already seen a significant rise in usage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and patients being cautious about traveling to healthcare facilities for appointments for fear of contracting the virus. [Related reading: Older patients use telehealth almost as much as younger ones, report finds] While patients who are being evaluated for new conditions will likely be better served by an initial face-to-face consultation, follow-ups can occur efficiently once the relationship with the provider has been established. Indeed, the anesthesiologists at the conference predict up to 50% of visits could be conducted remotely.

Older patients use telehealth almost as much as younger ones, report finds

01/10/2020

We’ve written before about how telehealth has come into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has driven the adoption of telehealth services, and it’s not just younger patients that have been taking advantage, according to a new report. Contrary to popular belief, older patients have also been embracing telehealth services, as shown in a recent report by Strata Decision Technology. Based on data collected from 43 health systems, as well as telehealth visit data from the American Medical Association and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the report shows that while telehealth visit utilization was highest for the 30–39 age cohort (27.95%), individuals in their 70s (22.52%), 80s (20.29%), and even 90s (19.04%) have been utilizing telehealth offerings. Jeffrey Gelblum, MD, a practicing neurologist at First Choice Neurology in Aventura, Florida, says telehealth is enabling older patients to access healthcare services they may otherwise have missed out on. “Historically, we had to deal with older folks who may not be able to drive and older folks who would have difficulty finding a parking space. If the weather was bad, some older folks did not want to go to a doctor appointment. Driving for older folks is problematic in terms of compliance. But now with telehealth, that situation has been resolved,” he says. Telehealth also allows older patients to see their physicians more often than if they were having to attend face-to-face appointments.

Most healthcare execs agree that telehealth has improved patient care - survey

29/09/2020

The switch to telehealth that many doctors and patients have had to make as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been largely positive, new research shows. Furthermore, the majority say some of the changes will be permanent going forward. According to the survey of 500 executives in the healthcare industry, conducted by marketing agency Boston Digital, 57% of respondents said telehealth had increased the quality of patient care. In fact, more than half of those surveyed said their organisation had created new portals or micro-sites in response to the pandemic. Only 8% of respondents said telehealth initiatives were not important to their organisation. Most survey respondents said more than 40% of the changes they had made in the face of the coronavirus pandemic would likely remain permanent. However, the findings of the survey, while positive on the whole, do highlight some challenges that the telehealth industry must overcome. The most prominent challenge, the survey found, was patients’ ability to use new technologies.   Speaking to Healthcare IT News, Peter Prodromou, president at Boston Digital, said: “To overcome barriers, including a patient’s ability to understand new programs and associated technology, healthcare providers must implement a seamless user experience and a robust digital marketing strategy that effectively communicates to their diverse patient community.”

Telehealth expected to account for $29 billion in US healthcare services in 2020

17/09/2020

Telehealth has gone from being a supplementary means of accessing healthcare services to one of the primary ways patients seek treatment, a new report has revealed. According to Doximity's 2020 State of Telemedicine Report, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on telehealth, driving its adoption. In fact, the report says that telehealth is expected to account for more than 20% of all medical visits in the United States this year and drive $29 billion worth of healthcare services revenue. The Doximity report also found that as much as $106 billion of current US healthcare spend could be virtualized by 2023. This projection highlights the increasing acceptance and adoption of telehealth among both patients and physicians. The report says there is a likelihood that care providers will find themselves competing to offer the best telemedicine experience. Prior to the pandemic, just 14% of American patients had taken advantage of telehealth services. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, this figure has risen by 57%. For those with a chronic illness the increase was 77%. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said they plan to use telehealth once the pandemic ends, while 27% said they feel more comfortable using telemedicine since the pandemic. You can read the full Doximity report here. [Related reading: Use of telehealth technology among US specialists increased during pandemic]

AstraZeneca halts COVID-19 trial after participant falls ill

10/09/2020

British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s large-scale human COVID-19 vaccine trial has been paused after one of the participants developed an unexplained illness. A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said the pause is “routine” and occurred when the firm’s standard review process was triggered. An independent committee will now review safety data pertaining to the trial. AstraZeneca stressed that an adverse reaction was only witnessed in one study participant, and that pausing trials was a common part of the vaccine development process. No details have been released about the nature of the participant’s illness, but it has been reported that the individual is expected to recover. Right now, all trials of the joint AstraZeneca-University of Oxford developed vaccine, AZD1222, have been halted worldwide, including in the United States, UK, Brazil, South Africa, and India. AZD1222 is one of three COVID-19 vaccines in late-stage Phase 3 trials in the United States. AstraZeneca and eight other drug makers have said they will not seek approval from US government regulators for any vaccine until all data showed it was safe and effective. All of the companies, which include Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax Inc, Sanofi and BioNTech, said “the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals” was their top priority.  

Ohio Medicaid seeking to make telehealth expansion permanent

03/09/2020

Officials at the Ohio Department of Medicaid are seeking to make expanded telehealth coverage — which was put in place in March to address the coronavirus pandemic — permanent. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, telehealth options for more than three million people living in Ohio were expanded to help cover their healthcare needs. Prior to the expansion, Ohio’s telehealth services saw less than 1,000 claims from providers per month for physical health services, and 4,000 for mental health services. Since the pandemic hit in March, almost 630,000 members have used telehealth, resulting in around 2.6 million claims. Furthermore, more than 200,000 people have sought help via virtual care channels from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS), resulting in around 1.28 million claims. A further 1.3 million claims were filed by more than 480,000 Medicaid members using telehealth to access care from providers outside the MHAS network. Following this significant increase in telehealth usage in Ohio, the state’s Department of Medicaid has filed documents petitioning the state to add more healthcare providers to the list of those eligible to bill for telehealth services, expanding the program permanently. “This permanent expansion of clinically appropriate telehealth services allows us to increase access to quality care while maintaining the fiscal sustainability and integrity of Ohio’s Medicaid program,” said Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran in a statement.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins large-scale human trial in US

01/09/2020

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide now at more than 25 million, any news involving potential vaccines is important, which is why a recent announcement from AstraZeneca Plc is exciting. The British multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, which has its headquarters in Cambridge, England, says it has begun to enroll 30,000 participants aged above 18 in the United States for a large-scale human trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222. The US trial will evaluate whether the vaccine can prevent COVID-19 infection or keep the illness from becoming severe, the National Institutes of Health said in a statement. It also will assess if the vaccine can reduce incidence of emergency department visits due to COVID-19. AstraZeneca says the study is being funded by the US Government and that participants will either receive two doses of either AZD1222 or a saline control (a placebo), four weeks apart. The AstraZeneca shot, which has been developed by researchers from the University of Oxford, is one of the farthest along of numerous COVID-19 vaccines in development. As well as the US trial, a final-stage test of the vaccine is underway in the United Kingdom. Preliminary results from this test could be yielded as soon as next month. Other companies that have COVID-19 vaccines in phase 3 trials include Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

Use of telehealth technology among US specialists increased during pandemic

28/08/2020

Medical specialists, including cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, and respiratory physicians, significantly increased their use of telehealth technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows. According to the survey by data and analytics company GlobalData, 79% of US medical specialists said their use of telemedicine technology had increased since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. One in five (20%) said their usage had stayed the same. Of the medical professionals who said their use of telehealth services had increased, almost 30% reported an increase of 81% to 100%. Prior to the outbreak, less than half of the medical professionals surveyed were using telehealth services. But their experiences must have been positive, as more than three-quarters said they will continue to take advantage of telehealth once the pandemic is over. Interestingly, while 24% of medical professionals reported that they would not continue to use telehealth technology going forward, most said it was because they needed to see their patients in person to conduct examinations. Speaking about the findings of the survey, Kathryn Whitney, director of thematic analysis at GlobalData, said: “Telemedicine has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the risk of person-to-person transmission of the virus and to reduce the burden on overwhelmed healthcare systems.”

Online doctor appointments could save UK employers more than £1bn

06/08/2020

The total cost in lost working time of UK employees travelling to appointments with their doctors last year was a staggering £1.5bn, new research reveals. According to a report published by health insurance firm AXA PPP Healthcare, online General Practitioner (GP) appointments could play a significant role in boosting efficiencies across both business and healthcare. The report, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), suggests that if virtual appointments were used in the first instance, the number of face-to-face GP appointments conducted last year could have been reduced by 50m. In addition, virtual appointments eliminate the need for patients to travel, thus reducing their chances of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, they allow GPs to reduce their risk of exposure too. The CEBR report also highlights how online consultations, which can be more easily booked, amended, and cancelled, would help reduce the number of missed appointments. NHS Digital figures show that this is an issue, with one in 20 GP appointments recorded as ‘did not attend’ in 2019. By enabling patients to more easily manage appointments, online GP services could free up the equivalent of 60 years of GP consultation time per year. Whether the prevalence of virtual GP services continues to grow once the COVID-10 pandemic is over remains to be seen. What is certain is that they are playing a vital role as the crisis continues.

New 90-minute COVID test ‘hugely beneficial’ for UK ahead of flu season

04/08/2020

A new 90-minute test that can distinguish if someone has COVID-19 or another seasonal illness will be highly beneficial come the flu season (December to March) in the UK, the government there has said. The “on-the-spot” swab and DNA tests can detect coronavirus and flu. They will be rolled out in hospitals and care homes across the UK starting next week. At present, a third of COVID-19 tests in the UK take at least 24 hours to process. The UK Government has said that almost half a million of the new rapid tests, called LamPORE, will be available from next week in hospitals and care homes. The investment will help the UK Government work towards hitting its target of testing all care home staff and residents — a move that’s designed to identify so-called ‘silent spreaders’ individuals who are infected but asymptomatic. In addition, thousands of DNA test machines that can analyse nose swabs will be deployed to UK NHS hospitals from September, following successful rollouts across eight London hospitals. The c. 5,000 machines will provide around 5.8m test over the coming months. While the accuracy of the new swab and DNA tests has not yet been determined, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said they are on a par with current lab-based tests.

Latinx individuals more vulnerable to COVID-19 — study

30/07/2020

We recently wrote about how being overweight or obese increases COVID-19 risks. Now, a new study has revealed how Latinx individuals are significantly more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 —, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — than any other ethnic or racial group. The researchers who conducted the study believe crowded living conditions, plus an economic necessity to continue working outdoors throughout the pandemic have contributed to the higher infection rates among Latinx communities. Furthermore, the researchers say that members of these communities are disproportionately less likely to have health insurance than their peers from other ethnic and racial groups. This reality, the researchers say, has contributed to the disparities we see today. For the study, the researchers analyzed over 35,000 COVID-19 test results from hospitals and outpatient clinics in the Baltimore-Washington area. They found that 16.3% of the tests were positive. Of those positive results, Latinx individuals accounted for 42.6% of the total, followed by black people (17.6%), “others” (17.2%), and white people (8.8%). Another uncovered discrepancy was that Latinx patients who tested positive and were subsequently hospitalized were significantly less likely to have been previously diagnosed with a health condition, something, the researchers suggest, could be due to them having poorer access to healthcare. The research, which is published in JAMA, involved a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Center for Data Science in Emergency Medicine.

Obesity increases COVID-19 risks

28/07/2020

Being obese or overweight increases the chances of someone with COVID-19 experiencing serious illness, complications, and death, new research suggests. Having examined existing studies, Public Health England (PHE) found that carrying excess weight put people at greater risk of requiring hospital admission or intensive care. Furthermore, that risk grew as weight increased. The findings of the PHE evidence review come ahead of an expected UK Government announcement relating to new measures to curb obesity in the country. At present, the UK has some of the highest obesity levels in Europe, with almost two-thirds of adults now either overweight or obese. Many believe that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown have served to exacerbate many people’s weight issues, with individuals stuck at home for prolonged periods and unable to carry out their usual exercise regimes. The findings of the evidence review will be of particular concern to groups that are already at higher risk of COVID-related complications, such as older people, black and ethnic minorities, and those living in more deprived areas. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the current evidence was clear: “Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health - and may also help protect against the health risks of Covid-19," she said. "The case for action on obesity has never been stronger.”

Three simple acts can prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, research finds

23/07/2020

If people washed their hands regularly, social distanced, and wore face masks most COVID-19 outbreaks could be prevented, even without a vaccine or additional treatments, a new study has found. According to the research published in the journal PLoS Medicine, which created a COVID-19 prevention and spread model, the steps should work in most western countries. The research found that government-imposed social distancing measures, such as closing business establishments, cancelling in-person events, and advising people to stay at home whenever possible, can delay the peak of a COVID-19 epidemic by up to seven months on their own. However, when coupled with regular handwashing and wearing masks, the peak of the epidemic can be delayed by a further few months. Furthermore, the earlier people adopt such measures, the greater the positive impact. The researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands said in a country where 90% of the population uses multiple actions, such as hand washing and social distancing, a large outbreak of COVID-19 or a second wave could be averted. Speaking about the findings of the research, Ganna Rozhnova, an infectious disease modeler at the University Medical Center Utrecht, said: “If nearly all [the] population adopted self-imposed measures we would not have to confront the possibility of secondary lockdowns as well as the possibility that we may find our medical systems overwhelmed during the peaks of epidemics.”

Coronavrius: Oxford vaccine appears safe, triggers immune response

21/07/2020

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the Universality of Oxford and AstraZeneca appears safe and triggers an immune response that should protect people against infection. According to a trial of the vaccine involving 1,077 participants, the findings of which are published in The Lancet, the vaccine led to individuals making antibodies and T-cells that fight SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. Within just 14 days of receiving the vaccine, participants’ T-cell levels peaked. After 28 days participants’ antibody levels peaked. Both T-cells and antibodies are crucial in the body’s immune defence of viruses, which is why any effective vaccine needs to induce both in the people who receive it. But while the findings are immensely promising, more research is needed to determine exactly how safe the vaccine is, whether it can indeed provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 and how long any protection would last. Nevertheless, the UK has already ordered 100m doses of the vaccine. Prof Andrew Pollard, from the Oxford research group, told the BBC: “We're really pleased with the results published today as we're seeing both neutralising antibodies and T-cells. “They're extremely promising and we believe the type of response that may be associated with protection. “But the key question everyone wants to know is does the vaccine work, does it offer protection... and we're in a waiting game.” The next step is for more than 10,000 people to take part in the next stage of the trial to further determine how safe the vaccine is. [Related reading: World leaders pledge billions to help develop coronavirus vaccine]

COVID-19 immunity could be lost in months, UK study suggests

14/07/2020

People who have recovered from COVID-19 and gained immunity to the disease could lose it again within months, a new study from the UK suggests. According to the research by a team from King’s College London, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) could reinfect people year after year, much like common colds. Having studied the immune responses of more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, the researchers found that COVID-19 antibody levels peaked about three weeks after the onset of symptoms.  [Related reading: Coronavirus: Immunity levels likely to be higher than antibody tests suggest] Blood tests revealed that while 60% of COVID-19 patients displayed a “potent” antibody response at the height of their battle with the disease, this figure fell to just 17% three months later. In some cases, antibody levels became undetectable. The findings of the study have implications when it comes to developing a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as achieving greater herd immunity. The bottom line is that if antibody levels drop over time and people are able to be reinfected seasonally, a vaccine would not actually provide any long-term benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Katie Doores, lead author from King’s College London, said: “People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around.”

WHO reviewing spread of COVID-19 in the air

09/07/2020

Following an open letter from more than 200 scientists to the World Health Organization (WHO), the international body is rethinking its stance on how COVID-19 spreads through the air. “We wanted them to acknowledge the evidence,” Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the paper, told the Reuters news agency. “This is definitely not an attack on the WHO. It's a scientific debate, but we felt we needed to go public because they were refusing to hear the evidence after many conversations with them,” he said. The WHO has acknowledged that emerging evidence shows how the coronavirus can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air. It’s a reality that makes transmission of the virus in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated spaces much more likely. Outdoors, the aerosols evaporate and disperse much more quickly, reducing the risk of infection. Until now, WHO guidance does not address the fact that COVID-19 can be transmitted through minuscule droplets that hang in the air for potentially hours. All the evidence will now be thoroughly evaluated to determine its reliability, which could lead to new advice and guidelines from the WHO. As a result, compulsory face mask rules and even stricter social distancing measures could be implemented in places like bars, restaurants and public transport.    

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