JEDDAH: The ideal way to receive medical advice during the current health crisis is through digital means, a recommendation emphasized by Saudi authorities while a nationwide lockdown is in force due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has launched electronic services that contribute to promoting health awareness and interactive communication, while also tightening control and facilitating the performance of businesses.
The services include a WhatsApp chatbot called Sarah and an app called Tameni, in cooperation with the National Digital Transformation Unit, which use AI, business intelligence, and an electronic inspection system.
Sarah works around the clock and communicates directly with users through WhatsApp and Telegram. It allows users to inquire about drugs, send a complaint, and contributes to increasing health awareness as well.
We want to reassure people about our food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices.
Abdullah Al-Dokhail, SFDA’s director of systems development
The mobile app Tameni aims to provide accurate and easy information about all the products supervised by the authority. It allows users to search for drugs, their prices, and their alternatives, through the name of the product or the barcode.
Last November, the SFDA’s director of systems development, Abdullah Al-Dokhail, said the authority chose the name Sarah because it was the most common female name in the Kingdom. It is also his mother’s name.
“I don’t think there is a household in the Kingdom without the name Sarah,” he said. “It is definitely someone’s daughter, mother or sister. It is a very common name, it is present in every region in the Kingdom, it is even popular globally. The name Sarah is derived from the Arabic word suroor, which means joy and that is what we want to bring to everyone.”
He explained that the same idea lay behind tammni, which means reassure me.
“We want to reassure people about our food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices,” he added. A common question the authority received was why the two services were not rolled into one app. Al-Dokhail said the SFDA wanted the services to reach everyone inside the Kingdom and outside.
“That is why we diversified the platforms. We chose WhatsApp because there is a statistic that said 25 million people in the Kingdom use WhatsApp. Tameni is a mobile application and apps are popular among the youth.”
The electronic inspection system contributes to reducing violations and maintaining the safety of citizens and residents in the Kingdom through direct follow-ups from the inspection operations room, updating facilities’ data, archiving their files directly, and electronic scheduling of periodic inspections.
As of Sunday Saudi Arabia had confirmed 206 new coronavirus cases and five deaths, bringing the totals to 2,385 infections, 34 deaths and 488 recoveries.