JEDDAH: As part of its efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Saudi Arabia has launched a set of different applications and improved some existing ones to provide various health care services to its residents.
During the Riyadh Global Digital Health Summit that took place earlier in August, Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said that pandemic preparedness and digital health have been key priorities for the Kingdom and that technology has been the primary weapon in the battle against COVID-19. He said that Saudi Arabia had “capitalized on many of [its] existing digital applications that offer artificial intelligence components in tackling this pandemic,” playing a fundamental role in supporting health emergency management by strengthening existing response mechanisms.
Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) has launched three new apps: Tetamman (Rest Assured), Tabaud (Social Distancing), and Tawakkalna, in addition to a new version of the Sehhaty app.
These apps were launched through the combined efforts of a number of relevant government agencies: the MOH, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Communications, the National Information Center and other related bodies.
Tetamman was launched in April and developed in the early days of the pandemic to “reinforce the commitment of all persons directed to isolation and follow up on their cases.” The app allows users to book an appointment for a COVID-19 test, follow up on the results, conduct a self-assessment of their health status, manage their isolation period, access accurate educational material and more. It has helped to facilitate mass testing plans, including drive-through testing stations in 17 cities across the Kingdom, receiving over 2.7 million beneficiaries to date.
Tawakkalna, an app developed by the National Information Center and launched in April, provided a number of important services during the imposed lockdown in the Kingdom that was lifted on May 30, including a jogging permit, exit permits for emergency health conditions and temporary driving passes.
Users of the app have surpassed 7 million in the past four months, with three new services added to the app this month that included an alert status, safe gathering management and dependent care. This last feature enables parents to follow up on their children, aged 15 or under, checking on them and the areas they visit.
Moreover, users can also report COVID-19 suspected cases to help individuals receive the health care they, or others, need. The app is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Filipino, Hindi, Indonesian and Urdu.
With the ease of curfew restrictions, the MOH launched the Tabaud app in June to help people in Saudi Arabia identify cases in proximity to them, in order to protect themselves and help curb the spread of the virus.
The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, in cooperation with the MOH, launched Tabaud to notify people in crowded areas of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 within the last 14 days. It notifies users of infected individuals by sending encrypted data to smartphones running the app, using Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones that also operate the app, determine the distance and notify users to take precautionary steps.
Sehhaty, another app with integrated services that was developed by a private company in cooperation with the MOH, enables users to access health information and medical e-services provided by different health organizations in the Kingdom. These include COVID-19 test appointment booking, the self-assessment test, vital signs updates, tracking prescribed medicine, and retrieving and sharing sick leaves.
It also promotes a healthy lifestyle through various features, including an integrated steps tracker with Apple HealthKit. Other systems were also activated, including the 937 health care number and the Seha and Mawid apps, which were launched in 2017, to allow users to receive medical consultation from accredited specialists and book appointments at public health centers. By September, the number of 937 calls grew to 17.73 million, while Seha app downloads exceeded 1.5 million.