The impact of hi-tech, Robo Doctor in the success of Hajj 2019
London, August 28, 2019 (AltAfrica)-To manage a gathering of more than 2.5 million people is a daunting task. When these people’s medical requirements are added into the mix, it becomes a logistical nightmare.
And this is the situation Saudi Arabia has had to contend with as Muslim faithful from across the world made the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
To avoid a repeat of incidence such as the 2015 example, when commotion at the Jamraat Bridge resulted in the death of over 200 pilgrims, the Saudi Arabia government turned to technology, launching the ‘Smart Haj’ initiative in 2018.
The “Smart Haj,” whose chief aim was to provide pilgrims with the necessary information required for performing the pilgrimage is part of the Kingdom’s digital transformation programme.
For the 2019 Hajj in Makkah, the Saudi Arabia government employed new technologies using robots for medical consultancies and apps for crowd control.
Named Robo Doctor, the technology offers doctors opportunities to consult with their counterparts in hospitals and health centres and mobile medical caravans anywhere within the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry launched the technology during the hajj season. The Robo Doctor is placed at Mina, a sacred location within Makkah.
Consultations are offered from any region within the country to virtually reach any hospital in Mina — through the 4G network.
The robot doctor has its built-in capabilities including a stethoscope, special endoscope cameras for eye and ear examination, special camera for skin examination.
Other tools include otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes that enable doctors to diagnose medical conditions and provide medical consultations remotely.
By transmitting the image with high resolution and medically certified purity, the doctor can be able to read the clinical signs and indications, including radiographs.
Ahmed Balkhair, Undersecretary of the Saudi Ministry of Health for e-Health and digital authorisation and the general director of the National Health Information Centre said, “Sometimes we have rare problems such as tumours, or other cases that require the advice of colleagues or consultants who are in other facilities.”
The Robo Doctor moves to any location within the Mina Emergency Hospital, down to the patient’s room to provide advice, through the use of lots of equipment attached to it.
Encrypted data transmission
“The data is then transmitted to the doctor in an encrypted form, using computer tablets. These are high resolution images that enables the doctor to examine the x-rays and screens associated with the patient in a medically approved way. After the consultation is finished, the doctor leaves, and the robot returns to the waiting site until further consultation is requested,” Mr Balkhair.
Besides that, there are other services such as Remote Intensive Care, which is run remotely by doctors. This is applied by giving the patient a bracelet or a watch that continuously transmits his vital signs while he is moving around in the holy sites.
The Robo Doctor is expected to form part of medical continuum long after the pilgrim season is over.
Besides that, the pilgrims accessed other smart technologies that helped to connect one with ambulance services, health centres and raise health and safety awareness through virtual reality.
Last year, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology launched a “Smart Haj” initiative to provide pilgrims with all the necessary information required for performing the pilgrimage.
The Smart Haj is part of the Kingdom’s digital transformation programme under Vision 2030, and includes many digital services and interactive apps, significant of which are Destination, Assist Me, Hajj and Umrah Navigator, Health and Our Rituals.
With the help of Health for example, one can consult with doctors from diverse fields of specialisation at any given time during Hajj, while Our Rituals helps to identify places of general interest, such as nearest mosques, restaurants, toilets, shopping malls, and the shortest routes from respective locations.
Last year the Saudi government gave Sophia robot citizenship, making it the first country to do so in the world. Since 2014, however, the country has been investing in robotics with first fleet of drones bought from China.
Digital crowd administration
Dr Mohammed Salih Benten, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the Hajj administration was managed fully electronically through an integrated infrastructure.
“Every pilgrim who comes to the Kingdom can know all the services he will receive, where he will stay and when he will travel between the holy sites, the database is the basis for the success of the preparation to receive the pilgrim before arrival in the Kingdom,” Dr Benten said in an interview with state-run Al Ekhbariya television channel this week, which was carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
“What distinguishes this year’s pilgrimage is the increased use of electronic platforms and software to manage large crowds. Any comments on the services get processed promptly by the electronic systems.”
Dr Benten said the holy sites were covered by geographic information systems and advanced cameras that would help the joint chambers of all government agencies serving pilgrims to follow up service providers on the ground moment by moment.
Hajj is the world’s largest religious event, this year with 2.5 million pilgrims within a specific location. This called for proper organisation of the transport systems to ease movements
Officials also used the pilgrim season to do a pilot study on a new tracking system. Some 25,000 Pilgrims in Mina were given the wearable smart cards that have pilgrim’s personal details like health conditions, residence and Hajj tour plans. The cards were fitted with trackers to follow their movements.