As Index/Martina Paucek Sljivak writes on the 24th of March, 2020, an emergency medicine specialist from Istria County has created a praiseworthy project that will help many during this coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Srdjan Jerkovic has created a website, Pregledajme.com, to help Croatia’s residents make more informed decisions about seeking appropriate medical care, and when and when not to do so.
“Because medical institutions and hospitals may soon become overwhelmed with new cases due to the coronavirus epidemic, this solution can help reduce the burden on the healthcare system. Medical staff are quickly overburdened. Doctors are already busy caring for sick people and are themselves at high risk. The demand for health care services is on the rise, so patient triage is now, more than ever, an important means of guiding patients on what to do when they’re not feeling well. This includes coronavirus, but also the more effective triage of patients in general,” Dr. Jerkovic told Index.
He stated that many lessons learned from past pandemics have shown that pandemics not only kill but also contribute to a significant increase in the number of deaths from other conditions which overburden the health services, not counting those seeking “unnecessary” care.
According to research, pandemics have been shown to increase morbidity and mortality by diverting healthcare resources away from routine care, reducing access to routine care. Diverting resources, medical supplies and staff leads to reduced routine care. Pandemics also limit the ability of individuals to travel for medical care, increasing the number of “anxious” people seeking unnecessary medical care, thus increasing the infection rate of healthcare professionals and increasing the shortage of professionals.
“During the influenza pandemic back in 2009, a greater increase in patient admissions for influenza and pneumonia was associated with a statistically significant increase in the number of deaths attributable to heart attacks and strokes (Rubinson et al., 2013). At the height of the severe flu pandemic, almost 40 percent of healthcare professionals didn’t show up for work because they were ill themselves, needed to care for sick family members or care for their children,” noted Dr. Jerkovic.
Despite all of the above, he has now devised a way to help citizens during the ongoing and severe coronavirus pandemic.
“There are two ways, the first is that we have a ready-made solution that can help patients quickly assess their health risk and get recommendations on the next steps they can take, what to do, and to who and how to report it. The other is a quick and free virtual consultation to keep medical staff in touch with patients, but without direct contact, such as like with a family doctor and a call centre establishment,” said Dr. Jerkovic.
A developer from Pula has developed an algorithm for detecting coronavirus-induced lung inflammation from a simple lung x-ray.
Both solutions are recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention).
The pregledaj.me service, he says, is constantly being upgraded at his Medicus company and is complemented by additional capabilities.
“It’s now mature enough to be shown and made available to everyone. In ten days, we’ll also present an online coronavirus risk assessment tool based on the official guidelines established by WHO and ECDC. I’m affiliated with a local artificial intelligence expert, a developer from Pula who has developed an algorithm for detecting coronavirus-induced lung inflammation from a simple lung x-ray in order to offer a solution to anyone who wants it for free,” he said.
Otherwise, on the Pegledajme.com website, patients who are unwell may type in their symptoms that they have searched for through Google so far, to which they may have received irrelevant and/or confusing information and now no longer know what to do.
“Pregledajme.com is a web based symptom checking service based on artificial intelligence, currently covering about 700 common conditions and diagnoses, over 1250 different symptoms, it can be accessed by computer or smartphone, 24 hours per day. It’s fast, free, simple and anonymous.
How does Pregledajme.com work?
After the user enters their symptoms, the Pregledajme.me page asks additional, simple, and relevant questions, and compares the user’s answers with thousands of similar cases to help them to identify possible causes and try to explain their symptoms. After checking the symptoms, the system creates – in real time – a complete report that can be downloaded as a PDF file, which shows a list of relevant conditions/diagnoses that could be causing the user’s health problems, advises the user what the next steps to take are, and finally directs them to the closest appropriately qualified medical professional, which is based on the results of symptom screening and the geolocation of the users and their nearest healthcare providers,” Dr. Jerkovic told Index.
He said the service would be beneficial to the community because it would reduce the number of people unnecessarily seeking treatment, and would reduce the morbidity and death rate of individuals who are truly at risk.
“The system was initially designed over a year ago to provide some commercial services, but with the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic I decided to adapt it and give it to everyone for free. Now is the time for mutual assistance and this is my contribution to the community,” he concluded.