Tuesday June 18, 2019

How a phone call is saving lives of TB patients in India

The traditional medication adherence programme "Directly Observed Treatment" or "DOTS" involved the patients going to a healthcare centre where they ingest the medication in front of a health worker

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Tuberculosis
Representational image. IANS
  • Can a phone call save lives?
  • A project called 99DOTS helps patients with Tuberculosis in India get medication
  • TB is one of the top 10 causes of deaths globally

In a world flooded with technological advancements, can a phone call save lives? This is happening as part of a project developed by software giant Microsoft in India.

The project, named “99DOTS”, which began in 2013 helps patients with Tuberculosis in India get medication adherence and monitoring via missed calls and SMSes.

From a modest pilot involving just 20 patients in early 2014, 99DOTS has enrolled over 93,000 patients in just four years, with 41,000 patients currently under treatment.

Rohingya Children
Tuberculosis causes lots of death every year. VOA

“99DOTS is a great example of such a project, where we’ve invented a very simple but unusually effective technology to solve a global health problem. And we are making this technology openly available to the global health community,” Sriram Rajamani, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India, said in a statement.

TB is one of the top 10 causes of deaths globally, with 10.4 million people falling ill with the disease and 1.7 million related deaths reported in 2016 alone. India leads the count in TB chart even though free and effective medications are available, according to the World Health Organisation.

Also Read: A new substance may help fight tuberculosis: study

“One of the biggest barriers to recovery from TB is medication adherence,” Bill Thies, senior Researcher at the Microsoft Researcher India, said in a statement.

“Patients have to take daily drugs for a full six months or else they do not fully recover, and are at risk of developing drug resistance.” However, “once patients start feeling better after a few weeks, it becomes very difficult to convince them to take toxic drugs for another five months – especially if patients have little or no understanding of germs and antibiotic resistance”, Thies rued.

This is where “99DOTS” project plays a significant role. In the project, each anti-TB blister pack is wrapped in a custom envelope, which hides a phone number behind the medication. When a patient dispenses his or her pills, they can see these hidden numbers. After taking daily medication, patients make a free call to the number.

A new substance may help fight tuberculosis: study
This helpline help patients get medication on time. Wikimedia Commons

The combination of the call and patient’s caller ID yields high confidence that the dose was “in-hand” and they took it, Thies said. The team also developed an SMS reminder system for patients. Missed doses trigger SMS notifications to care providers, who follow up with personal or phone-based counselling. The traditional medication adherence programme “Directly Observed Treatment” or “DOTS” involved the patients going to a healthcare centre where they ingest the medication in front of a health worker.

“99DOTS gives the patients the freedom and ownership of their treatment. They are able to take the medication wherever they are. It also provides them the privacy of not having to visit a health centre,” explained Andrew Cross who was earlier Programme Manager at Microsoft Research and teamed up with Thies to build up 99DOTS. IANS

Next Story

Microsoft Launches Smart Phonetic Keyboards for 10 Indian Languages

The updated keyboards have automatically been made available with the recent Windows 10 update

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Microsoft
Logo of Microsoft outside it's office. Pixabay

In a bid to further allow users personalise their Windows 10 experience, software giant Microsoft on Monday launched smart phonetic keyboards for 10 Indian languages as part of its May 2019 update.

The updated phonetic keyboards have been made available in languages including Hindi, Bangla, Tamil and Marathi amongst others, the company said in a statement.

The keyboards would allow users to work in their preferred languages without having to purchase customised Indic hardware keyboards or stickers.

cyber spies, identities
FILE – A man types on a computer keyboard in this illustration, Feb. 28, 2013. VOA

The technology would let users input transliterated text using the existing keyboards and then convert text from one script to another, depending on the target language.

The new tools would not only help in making computing inclusive, but they are also expected to improve typing speed and accuracy in Indian languages by at least 20 per cent along with making it easier to make regional symbols like the Indian numerals easier to input, the company said.

Also Read- E-vehicle Sector for Priority-lending, R&D Incentives in Budget

With this, the software giant moves forward in its aim to integrate virtual keyboards as part of its Windows operating system.

The updated keyboards have automatically been made available with the recent Windows 10 update. (IANS)