EMBER - designed by a QF graduate who has returned to Education City to teach – aims to break new ground in the telemedicine field
A new medical app, created by a QF professor and now launched in the US, aims to connect people to a network of doctors who can provide help within minutes.
Supported by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) and set to be available in Qatar in early 2020, EMBER is a comprehensive mobile platform for telemedicine, with one of its eventual goals being to help provide swift medical services to residents and visitors to Qatar during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This application is designed to be the first point of reference for patients suffering from any health condition.
It has been created by Dr Mohamed B. Elshazly, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) – a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university - and engineer Shadi Wahba, and covers all types of medical services, including urgent care, mental healthcare, childcare, and home visits. The services it provides, according to the team behind it, make EMBER a step up from currently-available telemedicine platforms.
“This application is designed to be the first point of reference for patients suffering from any health condition, as an alternative to traditional methods such as searching online, or consulting parents or friends, and is aimed at ensuring better, more accurate diagnosis of their condition,” explains Dr. Elshazly, a QF alumnus.
“It is like any app that has a tracking feature - such as a transportation or home delivery application – and means patients can be connected to doctors instantly at any time.”
The support of QSTP – part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation - led to EMBER receiving seed investment, and it has also attracted the interest of international investors. Initially launched in San Francisco, it will be downloadable on people’s phones, allowing them to access a variety of medical services such as telemedicine consultations, through voice, video call, text messages, or home visits. The aim is to provide medical help within minutes, which, as Dr. Elshazly says, “may save a patient's life”.
One of the benefits of EMBER is that it helps patients avoid long waits in emergency centers or clinics, reducing the pressure on, and congestion in, health facilities, while also cutting waiting times for clinic appointments.
Technology is undergoing rapid development in Qatar, which will significantly support the application.
Its functions include a home visit service for patients, with the app “cooperating” with local doctors at clinics and hospitals; and an emergency response feature, one of its key aspects, where it can activate nearby doctors or first responders to provide support to patients until an ambulance arrives. Meanwhile, its inventors are also planning on introducing a health insurance feature.
“What makes us optimistic about this application is that the percentage of smartphone usage in Qatar is one of the highest not just in the Arab world, but globally, and technology is undergoing rapid development in Qatar, which will significantly support the application,” said Dr. Elshazly.
“As EMBER develops, we are planning on capitalizing on advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing, in collaboration with Qatar Computing Research Institute [part of QF member Hamad bin Khalifa University]. We are also working with the Sahtak Awalan: Your Health First initiative launched by WCM-Q to build a platform that sends advice about diet, physical activity and other lifestyle tips to users of the app.
The application will initially be available in Arabic and English, with other languages ultimately being added, alongside services such as a directory of pharmacy and medical center locations.
Speaking about how QF's educational environment stimulates research and innovation, Dr. Elshazly said:” QF's support to researchers in various fields has enabled me to accomplish a lot of important research, especially on smart wearable devices and the role they play in the management and prevention of heart disease.
“I am currently working with a team of engineers at Texas A&M University in Qatar [also a QF partner university] on some of this research, which has a significant impact on people’s lives as it can collect vital data such as activity levels, heart rate and blood pressure, helping specialists to monitor and treat their patients.”
Dr. Elshazly – whose research focus also focuses on topics including cholesterol, in collaboration with students at WCM-Q – says that having a passion for the medical profession drives physicians to develop themselves, and that QF provides doctors with the opportunity to advance their research efforts and implement projects such as EMBER.
His own medical journey began through being born and raised in Qatar “among a family of mostly doctors”, and he says: “From a young age, I was fascinated by how my father, a pediatrician, treated his young patients in his clinic.
“I decided to follow his example, driven by my awareness of the importance of this profession to people’s lives”.
During high school, he had planned to travel abroad to study medicine, but the opening of WCM-Q in 2002 was a milestone for him.
“Having the opportunity to study at one of the best and most prestigious medical schools in the world without leaving Qatar was perfect for me,” he explains. “So I graduated from WCM-Q in 2010 and then traveled to the US where I did my residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital and my fellowship in cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, both among the top training programs in their fields.”
Subsequently, he decided to come back to his alma mater in Qatar, where he is also a cardiologist at Hamad Medical Corporation’s Heart Hospital, and at the orthopedic and sports medicine hospital Aspetar. And he says his return to Qatar, and to QF, came from a desire to give something back to “a country that gave me so much, and an organization that provided me with opportunities in study and research and opened up so many horizons in the medical world”.
“My family and I also belong to the QF community, which has inspired us and made a significant impact on our career and community,” he says.
“My father, as well as being a doctor, is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at WCM-Q; my brother graduated from the same college in 2015; and my sister graduated from [QF partner university] Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar [VCUarts Qatar] in 2013. Meanwhile, my wife, who was a practicing dentist, has recently discovered her passion for arts and is currently a sophomore student at VCUarts Qatar.
“In QF, regardless of your interests, age, or culture, there is always a place for you.”
More information about EMBER is available by visiting www.embermed.com.