A look back at the news stories that shaped 2020

The year 2020 has undoubtedly been an eventful year for the health IT industry, from the explosion of COVID-19 preventative technology, the AI tools used for the global vaccine roll-out, and the introduction of the virtual HIMSS EMRAM asessments, this year was anything but ordinary. To commemorate this challenging but highly newsworthy year, we’ve picked out our most popular Healthcare IT News stories of 2020. 

1. UAE border COVID-19 rapid screening centre proves successful 

Our UAE-based health IT stories were very popular with our readers this year, and this story was no exception, raking up the highest ever number of views of an article on our international media platforms. Following a successful debut, Abu Dhabi introduced additional COVID-19 rapid screening centres at entry points to the UAE capital. Residents of the Emirates were unable to travel into Abu Dhabi without providing a negative COVID-19 test before departure. To facilitate the process, the UAE government introduced a rapid screening centre at a checkpoint between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to enable commuters to get tested during their journey instead. 

2. UK to use AI for COVID-19 vaccine side effects 

As the UK prepares for a widespread COVID-19 inoculation programme of monumental scale in the months ahead, the need for an effective and powerful tool to process a large number of reports is critical in managing the high volume of reports. In this November news coverage, Healthcare IT News spoke to a Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) spokesperson about their collaboration with Genpact UK to develop an AI tool to sift through the high volume of reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine.

3. UAE authorises emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine for frontline health workers 

As updates on pharmaceutical vaccination collaborations started to hit the news, in September, a COVID-19 vaccine in the United Arab Emirates became the first to get the go-ahead for frontline health workers. Led by Abu Dhabi’s G42 Healthcare, results from the final stages of the third phase of its COVID-19 inactivated vaccine reportedly confirmed that the vaccine was “safe and effective, resulting in a strong generation of COVID-19 antibodies.” The Phase III trials, which followed the apparent success of Phase I and Phase II trials conducted by China’s Sinopharm, took place with the help of 31,000 volunteers from 125 nationalities.

COVID-19: UAE’s Pure Health secures InterSystems TrakCare deal 

In April, one of the largest laboratory operators in the GCC secured a deal for the world’s first and only laboratory business management solution, in a bid to accelerate testing of the novel coronavirus in the region. According to a report by Gulf News, the UAE-based Pure Health – which manages a network of 115 laboratories in the country – signed an agreement with global healthcare information systems and technology provider, InterSystems to deploy its InterSystems TrakCare Lab Enterprise (TCLE). 

UAE private hospitals roll out antibody test for COVID-19 

In June, two of the largest private hospital groups in the United Arab Emirates made an FDA-authorised COVID-19 serology test available to the public. Mediclinic Middle East and King’s College Hospital London offered the SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies test, which is used to confirm the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 produced by the immune system. The test was able to confirm a previous diagnosis of COVID-19 that didn’t result in major symptoms, or one in those who may have suspected COVID-19 but tested negative on a standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

6. Germany benefits from digital health infrastructure during COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Innovation Hub published a list of trusted telemedicine services (including costs, reimbursement policy, functionality and prices) that can be easily integrated into a doctor’s practice without technical know-how or hardware investments. Professor Jörg Debatin, head of the Germany’s Health Innovation Hub, shares his learnings during a “Talking Points” webinar organised by the HIMSS D-A-CH Community.

7. Cyberattack on Czech hospital forces tech shutdown during coronavirus outbreak

One of the largest COVID-19 testing facilities in the Czech Republic, Brno University Hospital in the Czech Republic was hit by a major cyberattack on 12 and 13 March, causing an immediate computer shutdown in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. The hospital was forced to cancel operations and relocate new patients to other hospitals.

8. COVID-19: Lessons from the Nordics

In May, a HIMSS Nordic Community webinar addressed how Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway have enabled a sustainable human-centred health environment that influenced their crisis management during the pandemic. The panel included Kathrine Myhre, CEO at Norway Health Tech, Daniel Forslund, chairman of innovation and development committee, Bjorn Jonsson, CIO at Landspitali University Hospital, Iceland, Claus Pedersen, director of Sentinel Unit, Illka Kunnamo, editor in chief EBM guidelines, and Bogi Eliasen futurist at CIFS.

9. UK scientists develop 30-minute test kit for COVID-19

When the UK was on the upswing of COVID-19 infections epi curve in March, scientists in Oxford developed a faster-acting test to establish whether patients were infected with the coronavirus. A team from the University of Oxford’s Engineering Science Department and the Oscar Suzhou Centre for Advance Research (OSCAR) were aiming to improve upon the current process, which can take up to two hours to produce a result and requires specialised equipment.

10. The effect of the COVID-19 epidemic on health and care – is this a portent of the ‘new normal’?

In the throes of the pandemic, Dr Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at HIMSS reflects on the devastating effects of the novel virus as it moved around the world with alarming speed. Dr Alessi compares international approaches to containing the virus and draws on lessons learnt from similar historical events in healthcare.

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