Technology to Improve Palliative Care in Africa
Little is known about palliative care in Africa. Appropriate and supportive palliative care has been shown to improve quality of life and is an essential part of a functioning health system. However, due to the difficulties in the implementation of prompt and effective palliative care systems, it is still largely absent or ineffective in rural Africa.
The easiest and cheapest form of technology to improve palliative care is SMS text messaging. It can be a potentially effective tool to implement palliative care where it’s easily available. Mobile phones are critical to the success of the system, as they are relatively inexpensive and ubiquitous. Mobile phones can improve communication between rural patients and health professionals through meetings and discussions with potential stakeholders. A possible use could be communication between nurses and patients to schedule home visits. A similar solution can allow more people to benefit from palliative care, especially in rural areas.
The Importance of Palliative Care in Africa
Palliative services can be a significant aid for patients living with serious illness. Palliative care reduces suffering and improves quality of life, allowing the patient to enjoy and appreciate the remaining time.
Palliative care represents an important support system for families and patients. Research shows that palliative care can also aid in the transition towards the end of life, offering more opportunities for discussion and emotional release and expression. Personally assisted palliative care is ideal, but technology can also be beneficial and significantly less expensive for those who require palliative care.
In recent years, Africa has seen improvement in palliative care and palliative care specialists. Some hospitals, such as the Lautech Hospital in Nigeria have a specialised palliative unit, reserved for those with terminal illnesses such as cancer. There are organisations like African Palliative Care Association driven by a profound desire to reduce unnecessary pain and suffering from life-limiting illnesses across Africa.
Although these institutions represent a good starting point, there is still a large margin for growth. In the majority of cases, there is no or little accessibility to prompt and effective palliative care. The future focus needs to be on developing low-cost approaches to palliative care as the only possible alternative to respond to urgent needs of sick patients. Technology represents a possible solution as it can improve the information gathering by getting correct data to stakeholders and enhance patient health care in rural areas.
Lucy Wyndham worked in care home management for over a decade before taking a step back and moving into writing. When not working, she loves spending time with her family and walking her pet dogs.