FEATURE: CSIR’s AwezaMed COVID-19 App to improve doctor, patient communication

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The global war against COVID-19 is central to all developments, as a third of the world remains on lockdown in attempts to conquer it. A few industries stand to benefit by regarding this crisis as an opportunity. One of these is the technology space.

In this series titled, COVID Tech, SABC News’ Tshepiso Moche reports on coronavirus-related tech developments in South Africa and globally. In this edition, he looks at a Communication App that has been developed to help medical practitioners communicate better with patients during and beyond the pandemic.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Aweza have collaborated to develop a mobile App to bridge communication barriers between healthcare providers and patients. This comes as the world adopts what has been described as the ‘new normal’.

The App, called AwezaMed COVID-19, features localised speech technology such as speech recognition, machine translation, and text-to-speech.

Below is a screenshot of the App on Google Play Store:

“By bridging the communication barrier, the trust relationship between the healthcare provider and patient can be improved. In addition, the patient’s experience and the healthcare provider-patient confidentiality can be improved, and lives can possibly be saved,” says Dr Karen Calteaux, CSIR Digital Audio-Visual Technologies Research Group Leader.

The App also enables healthcare providers to access a phrase in English, then translate it into any South African official language.

The content of the application was developed in collaboration with health experts and is aimed at supporting healthcare workers to communicate with patients at healthcare facilities, especially during COVID-19-related screening and triage.

“AwezaMed emanated from a project funded by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, that strives to bridge language barriers between healthcare practitioners and patients in clinics. A decision was taken to develop a version to address language barriers experienced by medical professionals working with COVID-19 patients,” says Calteaux.

The App has been enhanced with COVID-19-related content and is available for download from the Google PlayStore for free.

Second wave of COVID-19

Meanwhile, the government has urged people to adhere to lockdown regulations to help reduce the chances of a second wave.

In recent days, South African has seen an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases.

The rising coronavirus infections and deaths are triggering tougher restrictions across Europe. France restored a lockdown on Friday, ordering people to stay at home except for essential work or medical reasons.

In Africa, 1 776 595 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded.

The five countries that have reported the most cases are South Africa (723 682), Morocco (215 294), Egypt (107 376), Ethiopia (95 789) and Nigeria (62 691).