SFor weeks, SARS-CoV-2 has been spreading to countries with fragile health systems, "says George Ulmann." The medical and nursing staff there therefore want to learn from Europe, especially on questions relating to the diagnosis, treatment and containment of Covid-19 . " 

Ulmann is a co-founder and manager of MedShr, the leading discussion platform for doctors and nursing staff. It is designed as an app and accessible worldwide via smartphone and Internet connection. MedShr thus offered itself as a vehicle for the transfer of practical knowledge about Covid-19 to developing countries. 

Safe and easy

Medshr founder cardiologist Asif Qasim and George Ulmann

The app owes its development to a cardiologist from London, who saw the need for a secure platform for the professional exchange between medical professionals. "Doctors sometimes use Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter to discuss clinical cases," explains Ulmann, "but none of these channels offers a sufficiently protected space, which is why they are not really suitable for it." MedShr solves this problem: the app meets the strictest requirements Criteria for data protection and security. For example, all cases are anonymized and pictures and films of patients can only be shared with their consent. For this purpose, medical histories, images and discussions are stored in encrypted form to prevent use outside the app. Above all, MedShr is only accessible to verified health workers, the authenticity of the users is checked individually. Even cooperation partners from industry and other sponsors have no access, which enables open discussion within the community. 

Online advice:
Via app to information about
dealing with Covid-19.

MedShr is easy to use. For example, users can handle all steps for a case presentation directly via the app. When setting up and using it, MedShr is reminiscent of Facebook or LinkedIn, as Ulmann explains: “MedShr is a place to browse, but also to exchange and discuss. You can stay here for thirty seconds, three minutes or three hours. ”The content is presented briefly and memorably and can be deepened in each case. Depending on their subject, interests or region, users join different networks. Thanks to sponsorships from industrial partners who want to advertise their products through MedShr, access is free for users. 

Partner in Austria

Ulmann came two years ago as part of a London delegation with the Health Hub Vienna, one of INiTS - University start-up service Vienna guided start-up accelerator, in contact. A year later, he successfully applied to MedShr for its funding program. This opened doors for him to Austrian pharmaceutical companies. Cooperation opportunities also arose with the Austrian Development Cooperation. Ulmann worked with the Austrian Development Agency ADA on plans for the treatment of malaria and infectious diseases in developing countries through targeted information from doctors. 

After the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, it was quickly agreed to change the focus. And in April MedShr started as part of a ADA business partnership a one-year digital training program on Covid-19 for health professionals in Africa and the Middle East. "In times of global travel restrictions, cross-border digital networking is a suitable method to support doctors in the fight against the corona virus," said ADA managing director Martin Ledolter (see also interview on page 16).

Own program

MedShr had provided its clients in Europe and the USA with data and experience on Covid-19 from Asia. Now it was time to put together a further training program for medical professionals with limited resources. 

Within a few weeks, the MedShr team of doctors had created a 22-part program with case studies and curated articles on topics ranging from diagnosis to intensive care treatment of Covid-19, taking local conditions into account as well as the experiences of individual doctors in Africa and Near East. And while the clinical team was following the case discussions in order to provide further know-how, the technical colleagues were ready to support the partly inexperienced users in the target region when working with the app. In addition, personnel were provided to handle the admission process for new registrations. 

Ulmann puts the number of doctors and hospital staff he wants to reach through this project at least 150.000. That is roughly the critical amount to generate long-term income through industrial partnerships. He wants to win new members through campaigns on social media channels and performances at private and public health institutions and medical associations.

At the beginning of May, MedShr put the first cases online, first in Ethiopia and Uganda, then in Nigeria, Iraq and Jordan. In the long term, the initiative is to be extended to the entire African continent and the Middle East. An interim report is positive in this regard: 94.000 doctors in Africa and the Middle East were reached with seven postings by the second half of May, and an additional 50.000 doctors with similar content could be addressed three times on average. "The project and the partnership with ADA help us to open up new markets," says Ulmann. This is a step closer to its goal of establishing MedShr as the standard app for doctors worldwide. ◆

The Company

Discussion platform for medical professionals

The health and tech start-up Medshr was initiated by cardiologist Asif Qasim and launched in London in 2015 to offer doctors of all specialties, medical students and nurses a closed network for the discussion of clinical cases and further training. The peer-to-peer network is growing rapidly through partnerships with medical associations and clinics, and today has more than one million members in 190 countries. MedShr generates income through further training that is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies or manufacturers of medical devices. MedShr has 40 employees and is in the process of establishing hubs on all continents. 

Photos: Medshr, Witthaya / Adobe Stock