Dubai start-up rolls out first Covid-19 app with EU medical device certification

CoVive, from Medicus AI, aims to flatten the curve by counselling patients with mild symptoms through chatbot technology

Medicus AI co-founder Dr Baher Al Hakim. Courtesy Medicus AI

A Dubai-born start-up has rolled out the first Covid-19 health monitoring app with EU Class 1 medical device certification that will help ‘flatten the curve’ for overburdened healthcare providers battling the most serious pandemic in a century.

Developed by Medicus AI, in partnership with Luxembourg’s Bionext Lab, CoVive provides self-assessment, test interpretation and self-monitoring through chatbot and automation technology.

To reach the greatest number of people, the app is white labelled for national ministries of health and public health care providers, with the potential to assist millions of patients, Dr Baher Al Hakim, chief executive and co-founder of Medicus AI, told The National. So far, CoVive has partnerships in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Austria, France, Portugal and Greece.

Chatbots have been a natural choice for disseminating health information during the coronavirus crisis, according to the World Economic Forum, with thousands of options – including offerings from the US Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation – available worldwide.

The WEF predicts the global pandemic, which has infected over 2 million people and killed more than 137,000 to date, will accelerate the widespread use of chatbots. After the crisis subsides, chatbots will become mainstream means for matching patients to doctors, scheduling appointments, checking symptoms and preparing for procedures and following post-discharge instructions.

Medicus AI’s managing director in China, Francisco Vega, first pitched the concept of CoVive in late January, with a small team from Medicus devoted to building the product for a Chinese audience. But as the pandemic swept the globe in March, Dr Al Hakim diverted half the team, around 50 people, to start working on CoVive full-time to reach as many individuals as possible.

“We made a mistake early on by not taking him seriously,” Dr Al Hakim said, “Our response was a bit slow,” he acknowledged.

Diagnostic labs and large hospitals, which make up the bulk of Medicus AI’s clients, reported being overwhelmed by Covid-19 testing in recent months, and when health care providers began telling patients with mild symptoms to stay home and self-monitor, the Medicus AI team decided to fast-track a product to help people record and communicate their symptoms to clinicians.

CoVive’s medical recommendations are automated, based on what patients report: they are told to go to an urgent care facility, call their doctor or to continue to self-monitor, based on symptoms.

CoVive is the first Covid-19 app to receive a CE medical device class 1 certification, an EU marker that means it poses the lowest risk to patients.

“Completing the CE certification in such a short time was nothing short of miraculous,” Dr Al Hakim said. “Even though the timing was critical, we couldn’t take any shortcuts here.”

The biggest technical challenge is that a new disease like Covid-19 means medical guidelines on treatment change constantly and more is known each day, according to Dr Nadine Nehme, the chief science officer and co-founder at Medicus AI.

To reflect those changes, the product is updated daily to comply with new guidelines.