Wednesday July 18, 2018

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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A phone call is saving patients from TB. IANS
A phone call is saving patients from TB. IANS
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  • 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

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Microsoft to End Support for Skype ‘Classic’ Following New Desktop Release

Skype version 8.0 will also roll out on iPads

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New Microsoft Skype version for desktop is rolling out from September 1. Pixabay

Microsoft is rolling out the new version 8.0 of Skype for desktop, replacing its previously active “Skype Classic 7.0”, from September 1.

The new version of Skype comes with features like free HD video and group calls that could bring together over 24 people at once, the Skype team wrote in a blog post late on Monday.

“We built Skype version 8.0 based on feedback from our community, adding exciting new features while ensuring it is simple to use with the same familiar interface of Skype version 7.0,” said the post.

skype
Skype version 8.0 will also roll out on iPads. Pixabay

Skype 8.0 includes message reactions, “@mentions” to send individual notifications in a group chat, a chat media gallery and an option to share up to 300MB of pictures and videos at a time over Skype.

Also Read: Microsoft Calls for Facial Recognition Technology Rules Given ‘Potential for Abuse’

The video-and-voice platform plans to roll out additional features later which would include read receipts, end-to-end encrypted Skype audio calls and text messages with hidden notifications, Cloud-based video call recordings with notification for everyone present during the call, profile invites and more.

Skype version 8.0 will also roll out on iPads. (IANS)