Use of telemedicine in Africa healthcare
Use telemedicine in Africa healthcare is becoming more prominent in rural areas and African disaster zones.
The unique set of healthcare challenges in Africa has made the use of telemedicine suitable. The ratio of doctors to patient is very low, the location of the hospitals to where patients are living is far, lack of good roads to the villages and other impediments are factors which makes telemedicine a crucial tool to cater for the needs of patients in Africa
In practice, telemedicine is simply the transmission of medical information via modern telecommunications, allowing for remote diagnosis, consultation and treatment. Its usage or adoption is growing across Africa healthcare
A recorded example of the importance of the use telemedicine in Africa healthcare was the experience of doctors working under healthcare charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF.)
In an interview with SciDev.net, MSF Doctor Raghu Venugopal recalled a story about a young girl who had been shot in the hand in war-ravaged eastern Congo. Medical staff on the ground was unsure how to treat the wound, and whether or not they would have to amputate the girl’s hand. Through MSF’s telemedicine “store and forward” consulting services they uploaded photographs and other information about the wound, which were then assessed by specialists overseas. Recommendations were then relayed to the medics on the ground not to amputate, but to remove specific unrecoverable tissues, ultimately saving the girl’s hand.
Furthermore, telemedicine technology was vital tool in tackling the most infamous African health issue in recent years, Ebola. The highly contagious virus poses an extreme threat to frontline healthcare workers.
However, by using robot mounted iPads to examine quarantined individuals, doctors have been able to assess symptoms, communicate with patients and provide treatments while minimizing risk. In a similar fashion to MSF’s service, information on Ebola cases is often relayed to overseas specialists for consultative advice.
For those undergoing treatment, telemedicine services also offer the opportunity to communicate with their family and loved ones without risk of spreading the virus. Undoubtedly, telemedicine services are transforming the quality of treatment available in areas of humanitarian crisis.
Due to success recorded where telemedicine has been used some African countries have adopted the use telemedicine due to its effectiveness, and making moves to implement their own programs on a national level.
Kenya announced a collaborative partnership with the German firm Merck Group. Together they are rolling out a new telemedicine scheme designed to connect rural communities in the nation’s east with specialists at Machakos Level Five Hospital, the top referral destination in the country. So far the program has been highly successful, prompting the government to expand the scheme to additional regions. Kenya’s Health Secretary, James Macharia, encouraged other countries in the area to follow suit: “I urge all stakeholders and county governments to invest in telemedicine as a way of bringing specialised services closer to the rural poor.”
On the other hand, the use of telemedicine in Africa healthcare has a long a long way to go before its full benefits could be realised even in the areas in which its being used or piloted at the moment. Infrastructures like broadband and stable mobile networks are still not stable or not available where needed. Even though, there are progresses in the use telemedicine in Africa, it’s not yet eureka