World Health Organization, Canadian startup Firstline team up to combat global health threat of antibiotic resistance

healthcare professionals
The WHO’s AWaRe platform also has roots in Hamilton’s McMaster University.

Vancouver-based healthtech startup Firstline, which offers a digital guidance platform for the prescription of drugs, is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The WHO declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity, and claimed it can be made worse by the over-prescription of unnecessary antibiotics.

“Using the WHO’s prescribing guidance is an action that doctors in every country can take today, to play their own part in the fight against AMR.”
 
 
 

Prescribing antibiotics can be complicated and requires expert knowledge, so the WHO has partnered with tech provider Firstline to streamline access to the former’s new clinical guidance for prescribing antibiotics, called the AWaRe Antibiotic Book.

The new clinical guidance is being distributed through Firstline’s web and mobile platforms at no cost. According to Firstline, access to the WHO guidance in Firstline will improve antibiotic prescribing, which is in turn meant to improve patients’ experiences and cut down on costs for healthcare systems.

In addition to Firstline’s platform, the WHO’s clinical guidance for antibiotics can also be accessed through a published book released under a Creative Commons licence.

AWaRe includes information on the choice of antibiotic, dose, route of administration, and duration of treatment for more than 30 of the most common clinical infections in children and adults, according to the WHO.

The WHO’s new guidance is the culmination of several ties to Canada. In addition to its delivery via Firstline’s platform, the database and initial classification that led to the WHO’s AWaRe categorization of antibiotics was conceived by a team led by infectious diseases physician Mark Loeb at McMaster University.

“National action plans on AMR have existed in many countries for years,” said Mike Long, Firstline’s chief clinical officer. “But using the WHO’s prescribing guidance is an action that doctors in every country can take today, to play their own part in the fight against AMR and begin to move the needle on AMR.”

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Founded in 2015, Firstline works with organizations to distribute local clinical guidance with technology. Its clinical decision support platform is being used by over 400 hospitals and healthcare organizations across 13 countries, according to the startup. To date, it counts more than 6,000 evidence-based clinical guidelines in its library.

Some of Firstline’s clients are UCLA Health, Fraser Health, Advent Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Alongside Long, Firstline is led by Jason Buck (CSO), Michael Campsall (CMO), and Cyrus Greenall (CCO). In 2020, Firstline (then called Spectrum MD) received funding for another project with several regional healthcare organizations to allow them to view guidelines developed by institutions across the world, access their epidemiological datasets, and subscribe to the updates. As the project lead, Firstline received $2.2 million from Canada’s digital innovation cluster.

Long told BetaKit that Firstline’s next step after the launch of WHO’s guidance book on its platform will be to customize the recommendations in collaboration with individual nations in order to account for variable local factors, such as drug availability and language.

“We recognized long ago that the delivery of customized guidance is essential and this is exactly what Firstline was designed to do.”

Featured image courtesy Firstline.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University and a staff writer for BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter @charlizealcaraz

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