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Crosswords or video games: which is better for your brain?

03/11/2022

In our modern age where smartphones and apps are ubiquitous, so-called brain training games are all the rage. But people of a certain age will be much more familiar with the good old-fashioned crossword. Which is better for your brain when it comes to slowing cognitive decline? New research has provided some insights. According to the study, led by Davangere Devanand, MD, a professor and director of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, the humble crossword puzzle may actually be better for aging brains than new-fangled video games. “This is the first study to document both short-term and longer-term benefits for home-based crossword puzzles training compared to another intervention,” said Devanand. For the study, the researchers followed 107 adults aged 55 and over with mild cognitive impairment for 78 weeks. The participants were randomly given either crossword puzzles or brain-training games, and asked to do four 30-minute sessions weekly over three months. The participants were also asked to do a number of booster sessions up until the end of the study period. The researchers found that the people in the crossword group showed a small improvement in tests of memory and other mental skills. The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

New wearable device can track tumors in real time

20/10/2022

A revolutionary new wearable sensor, which tracks tumors in real time, could provide invaluable insights into how cancer cells respond to treatments. The new device can report in real time how a tumor is growing or shrinking. The results are sent wirelessly to a smartphone for analysis, enabling physicians to more closely monitor patients' progress. So far, the device has been used and proven itself in animal studies. “Our technology is the first bioelectronic device to monitor tumor regression, and the first technology to monitor tumors in real time,” said Alex Abramson, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech and a co-author of a new study focusing the device. At present, the most common ways to measure tumors are calipers or bioluminescence imaging (BLI). While these methods are useful and, indeed, accurate, they are only typically performed every few days or weeks. With the new wearable sensor, tumor information is captured every 5 minutes, allowing changes to be recorded in a more timely fashion. Furthermore, the new sensor can also detect extremely small changes that calipers and BLI can’t. Our sensor will allow us to better understand the short-term effects of drugs on tumors and allow scientists and health care professionals a more streamlined method to screen drugs that could become therapies in the future,” Abramson added. *Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

Smartphones could improve memory - study

02/08/2022

Smartphones and other electronic gadgets have been an ubiquitous part of many people's lives for years now. But while the myriad of apps that are available include many that can help us not forget important details or dates, there has always been some debate around how good these gadgets are for our own internal memories. Now, new research has shed a light on the subject. According to the study, published on August 1 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, external memory devices can actually improve memory for information that someone has never saved. For the study, led by University College London (UCL) researchers, 158 volunteers were asked to play one of three memory task games involving high and low value circles on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The researchers found that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their own memory to recall additional, less important pieces of information. Participants who tended to use the digital devices to store the details of the high-value circles in the trial, demonstrated a memory improvement of 18%. Their memory for low-value circles was also improved by 27%, even in people who had never set any reminders for low-value circles. Senior author, Dr Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) said: “The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved. But we need to be careful that we back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.” *Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

New smartphone-enabled home kidney test cleared for use by FDA

19/07/2022

People who are at risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can now monitor their kidney health from the comfort of their own homes thanks to a new smartphone-enabled test. Healthy.io’s Minuteful Kidney™ test, as it is known, uses a smartphone’s camera to look for the protein albumin in the individual’s urine. By monitoring their own kidney health, people can not only benefit from problems being detected early, but also need to take fewer trips to their doctor’s office or clinical laboratory. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the Minuteful Kidney test 510(k) clearance this month, enabling millions of Americans to potentially take advantage of it. Andrea Somerville, from Boston, is one such American who is already using the new test after her health insurer ordered it for her. whose doctor is monitoring her kidney function, received a Minuteful Kidney test kit in the mail after her health insurer ordered one for her. “It was easy to do and really easy to upload everything to my phone so that the results could go to me and to my doctor,” she said. “The other piece that’s nice,” she added, “is that you find out the results right then and there, and it’s done in the privacy of your own home.” *image courtesy of healthy.io

Artificial pancreas could make life easier for people with type 1 diabetes

12/04/2022

For people living with type 1 diabetes, finger prick tests to check blood glucose levels are a necessary part of daily life. Without them, these individuals could experience potentially life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks, where their blood sugar levels fall too low. But regular finger prick tests could become a thing of the past for people with type 1 diabetes thanks to an artificial pancreas being trialled in England. The technology includes a sensor under the skin that monitors blood glucose levels, a pump that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin the person needs and a smartphone app where they can input the number of carbohydrates they eat at meal times. NHS England says the artificial pancreas trial – which currently involves around 900 people – is the first nationwide test of the technology in the world. It also comes 100 years after the first diabetes patient received insulin injections. Prof Partha Kar, NHS national speciality adviser for diabetes, said: "Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day. "It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication." *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

UK to turn NHS health app into Covid-19 vaccine passport

29/04/2021

We recently wrote about how France is the first EU member state to start testing digital COVID-19 travel certificate. Now, the UK has announced that it will use its NHS health app as a vaccine passport going forward. Part of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap for enabling international travel, the vaccine passport will allow vaccinated Britons to enjoy quarantine-free travel to certain countries this summer. The UK Government has set out plans for a "traffic light" system to be used to categorise different destinations. Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said that more details about the vaccine passport will be revealed "in the next couple of weeks", including which countries will be included on the so-called "green list". Britons will be able to travel to these destinations without having to quarantine on their return. However, travellers will still be expected to have a Covid-19 test both when departing the UK and upon their return. Mr Shapps also confirmed that the UK NHS smartphone app will be used to store people’s vaccine information, effectively making it a vaccine passport. Speaking about the possibility of vaccine passports being around for the long term, Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the UK science and technology select committee: “One reason is that Covid is not going to go away; it is going to be endemic around the world, it is going to keep resurfacing, and I think that, just as we’ve had yellow fever passports for years and years and years, we’re going to have Covid passports too”. *Image courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Smartphone cameras can now be used to monitor heartrate and breathing, making them perfect for teleh

15/04/2021

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

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

Tech giants team up to help accelerate ‘Covid vaccine passports’

19/01/2021

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.

5 major trends that are being accelerated by the Covid-19

08/12/2020

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.

Telehealth solution approved for stroke assessment in Northern Ireland

05/11/2020

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.

Telehealth or face-to-face appointment? The pros & cons of each

27/10/2020

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.  

Cleveland Clinic names four medtech developments in its top 10 medical innovations for 2021

08/10/2020

Cleveland Clinic has unveiled its top 10 medical innovations for 2021, and both telemedicine initiatives and app-connected health trackers feature. In fact, four medtech developments made the Cleveland Clinic list this year, underlining the importance of technology in healthcare. All of them were chosen in the belief they will be widely adopted in the coming year and have a significant clinical impact. Announced in conjunction with its annual Medical Innovation Summit, which is now in its 18th year, Cleveland Clinic’s top 10 innovations for this year were selected by a committee of subject matter experts at the academic medical center. This year, smartphone app-connected pacemakers were named the top medtech innovation because of their ability to better connect patients with their cardiac treatment, affording greater insights into the health data they produce. Bubble CPAP, a non-invasive ventilation strategy for premature babies, is the next medtech innovation on the Cleveland list. Bubble CPAP minimizes physical trauma and stimulates lung growth when administered over a prolonged period. Third on the list of medtech innovations is telemedicine, specifically increased access to these pivotal services through the removal of barriers. The fourth and final medtech innovation on the list is vacuum-induced uterine tamponade, a minimally invasive way for clinicians to stop postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after having a baby), which affects around one to five percent of women who give birth. The vacuum-induced device uses negative pressure created inside the uterus to collapse the bleeding cavity causing the muscle to close off the vessels. It’s a low-tech solution that could be taken advantage of in developing countries with low resource availability. [Related reading: What is telehealth?]

Losing sleep over the COVID-19 outbreak? These 5 tips will help

26/05/2020

The widespread panic and uncertainty being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means sleep isn’t coming easy for many people right now. But good quality sleep is the bedrock of our lives, consuming about a third of our total time on this planet and dramatically influencing the other two-thirds. That’s why it’s so important that we all get enough good quality sleep on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are five tangible tips to promote better sleep at this difficult time: 1. Get into a routine By getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, you can significantly boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. If you get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same times each day, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you follow random patterns. 2. Exercise more In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, regular exercise also helps you sleep better. And while cardiovascular exercise, strength training and yoga are all great for helping you sleep – especially if you do them during the day and not just before bed. 3. Watch your diet For the best sleep, try and eat a balanced diet that contains vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins - like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. 4. Consume less alcohol While some people rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep, studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep. In fact, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative kind. 5. Limit gadget use at night Blue light from TVs, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets plays havoc with your circadian rhythm and, as a result, the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is suppressed. For the best night’s sleep, limit your use of gadgets and other visual devices to around one to two hours before bed.

Children's online time should be regulated by parents like ‘junk food’ consumption

08/08/2017

Parents should be proactive in preventing their children from bingeing on the internet during the summer holidays. That’s the plea from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, as she launches a campaign to help parents regulate their children’s internet use. With web usage at an all-time high among children, Longfield has criticised the methods used by social media giants to draw children into spending more time staring at tablets and smartphones. She said: "It's something that every parent will talk about especially during school holidays; that children are in danger of seeing social media like sweeties, and their online time like junk food. "None of us as parents would want our children to eat junk food all the time. "For those same reasons we shouldn't want our children to do the same with their online time." According to industry watchdog Ofcom, last year, the internet overtook television as the most popular media pastime for children in the UK, with kids aged five to 15 spending 15 hours a week online. Longfield added that when smartphones, games and social media make us feel worried, stressed and out of control, it means we haven’t got the balance right.

Always connected individuals more stressed than their counterparts

10/07/2017

While it’s impossible to deny that technology has transformed the way in which we live our lives, not all of the effects are always positive. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey 2017, a staggering proportion (99%) of adults own electronic devices. In fact, the survey shows that around 86% of adults own a computer; 74% own a smartphone; and 55% own a tablet. As you would expect with figures such as these, the percentage of adults using social media has also significantly increased. In 2005, 7% of adults were active on social media. By 2015, that number had skyrocketed to 65% (90% for adults aged between 18 and 29). However, the survey also found that 43% of American adults had become what is known as “constant checkers” – people who constantly (almost obsessively) check their emails, text and social media accounts The problem is that stress levels for constant checkers are considerably higher than they are for “normal” people. For example, 42% of constant checkers worry about how social media affects their physical and mental health. In comparison, only 27% of non-constant checkers have the same worry. Are you a constant checker? If you are, perhaps it’s time you put your smartphone down and underwent a digital detox.

Toddlers who use touchscreen devices sleep less

17/04/2017

Toddlers who regularly use touchscreen devices, such as smartphones and tablets, don't sleep as well as their counterparts who don't, according to new research. The study in Scientific Reports shows that every hour a toddler spends playing with a touchscreen device each day shortens their sleep by almost 16 minutes. Conducted by Birkbeck, University of London and King’s College London, the study questioned 715 parents, with kids under three years old, about their children's touchscreen device usage and sleep patterns. It found that 75% of toddlers used a touchscreen device on a daily basis and slept for nearly 16 minutes less for every hour of use as a result. While the study isn't definitive, it does suggest that playing with touchscreen devices could be linked with possible sleep problems. However, the study also found that toddlers who play with smartphones and tablets have accelerated development of their fine motor skills. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Tim Smith, one of the researchers involved told the BBC: "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." His advice is not to ban toddlers from playing with touchscreen devices altogether, but to limit the amount of time they spend on them instead - the same as a lot of parents do with time spent in front of the TV.

The local surgery app that could help save lives in Africa

14/03/2017

It is hoped that a new mobile app developed in Canada could help treat millions of patients in Africa. MOST, or mobile optimised skill training, is an application that can be accessed on a tablet or smartphone which helps accelerate the number of healthcare workers that can be taught essential surgical skills. The brainchild of Vancouver-based surgeon and UBC surgical professor Dr. Ronald Lett, MOST was brought to life by Surrey, B.C. tech company Conquer Mobile and will be provided by the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) for free. Unlike existing face-to-face courses, which are usually taught by doctors visiting Africa to limited groups, MOST will facilitate the sharing of skills in the community long after visiting teams have left.  At present, there are 5 mobile training courses available in MOST, but another 7 are planned for the future. The new technology will be used to train 25,000 African healthcare workers and treat 2 million patients over the next 3 years. [caption id="attachment_3741" align="alignnone" width="620"] Dr. Ronald Lett has been teaching surgical skills to healthcare workers in Sub-Saharan Africa for 22 years. (Image credit: Ronald Lett)[/caption]   "The problem is there is a huge demand for surgical education, limited funding, and therefore we feel that we can optimize training, by having it available using newer technology," said Lett. African healthcare workers will be able to download the app onto their smartphone or tablet and go through the academic knowledge part using games and skills questions. There will also be avatars which react and provide feedback as though the individual were practising on a real life patient. Today, women in Africa are 10 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in the Americas. Furthermore, 13% of Africans will die as a result of an injury. The MOST app will be tested by CNIS in Ethiopia and Rwanda this spring or early summer.

Deloitte: UK Adults 'Addicted to Smartphones'

27/09/2016

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and reached straight for your smartphone? If you have, it seems you're not alone. According to a report from professional services firm Deloitte, people in the UK have never been so addicted to their smartphones, with one in three adults admitting they check their phones at night. Some individuals have attributed their addiction to FOMO (the fear of missing out) and it's a situation that causes rows between them and their partners. Here are some key findings from the Deloitte report: One in three UK adults has fallen out with their partners because they use their smartphones too much. Rows most common between couples aged 25-34. One in three UK adults checks their smartphones in the middle of the night. This increases to one in tow (half) of 18-24 year olds. One third use their smartphones while watching TV or socialising with friends One tenth say they use their smartphones "always" or "very often" while eating in restaurants. Commenting on the findings of Deloitte's sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey, Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecommunications research at the firm, said: "What smartphones enable people to do is to keep tags of what's happening, what people are saying, what people are posting. You can do that throughout the day and what smartphones are encouraging people to do is to do that at night." Deloitte says that four out of five UK adults now have a smartphone - equivalent to 37 million people. However, they also say that the market is reaching saturation point.

Everyday Objects Could Soon Help Diagnose Diseases

30/04/2015

Imagine if objects that you use on a daily basis, such as your toothbrush and your smartphone, could one day help detect serious medical conditions including Alzheimer’s and caner. While it may seem like something straight out of science-fiction movie, a future in which our mobile devices and products found around the house alert us to health issues might not be that far away. That’s because Oxford Nanopore Technologies – a firm renowned for creating palm-sized nanopore detectors and who developed the MinION, a USB gene sequencer - want to get each of our DNA online. Clive Brown, the chief technology officer at Oxford Nanopore, said: "Our big dream is to move towards self-quantification, and we're going to make a version that works on handheld mobile phones. It can measure your blood markers and collate that data to track changes in your daily biology.” Experts believe that fun-size nanapore sequencers contained in day-to-day objects will help with the detection of many diseases. They will allow a person’s DNS to be decoded into a digital format, which can then be compared with a genetic marker to allow for specific diseases to be spotted. Brown added: “You can run it anywhere on anything and that opens it up to other applications. We can embed it in fridges or toothbrushes as it gets smaller — it can become a ubiquitous sensing apparatus.” However, the device will be a just a self-quantification tool and not offer any medical advice.   Photo credit: Oxford Nanopore Technologies

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