Social networks are vital to disaster response
Researchers have found social media and networking sites can help improve a country’s response to natural disasters and health epidemics.
They said websites such as Facebook and Twitter made way for “unprecedented” communications between the public and health officials who try to organisation preparations and responses.
This in turn enables more effective preventative actions to be put in place sooner, to minimise the spread of damage caused by such events.
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One specific example cited by the researchers was that of the swine flu epidemic that hit in 2009.
It is thought approximately one million people visited YouTube and iTunes after the US Department of Health released its ‘Mommycast’ video to advise people how to prevent the illness from spreading.
They also noted that regional health departments used Twitter and SMS messages to inform people about the availability of flu shots and jabs.
Impressively, after a period of just one year the number of followers of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's Twitter account, @CDCemergency, increased 20-fold.
Aside from social networking sites, text messages and mobile phone apps such as Foursquare and Loopt have also proved to be useful tools of communication during major happenings.
The study found after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, members of the public texted and tweeted pictures of wildlife covered in oil which helped to organise the clean-up process.
Dr Raina Merchant, an emergency medicine expert from the University of Pennsylvania and leader of the research said: “By sharing images, texting and tweeting, the public is already becoming part of a large response network, rather than remaining mere bystanders or casualties.”
It is thought that GPS-linked mobile phones and RSS feeds will be utilised in the future to aid disaster preparation.
The results of the research have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”